Key to unlocking an e-mail hoax

The Baltimore Sun

Let me begin by saying I'm not one of those pathetic mopes who gets sucked in by e-mail scams or hoaxes.

I don't jump up and down when "Mr. John Maxwell" notifies me that I'm a beneficiary of 6 million British pounds left by some anonymous dead guy.

I don't get fooled by doctored photos like the one of Barack Obama talking into the wrong end of the phone or UFOs doing barrel-rolls over Plano, Texas.

I'm even able to resist the come-ons from lonely Russian women who say they're dying to meet me and ask me to write back.

(Dying to meet a fat, gray-haired guy in his 50s? Things must be tougher in Russia than we thought.)

The point is, you're not dealing with some hayseed here. I've been around the block a few times.

But the e-mail about being able to unlock your car doors via cell phone? Oh, they got me on that one.

Maybe you've seen this e-mail, too, because it seems to be making the rounds again. "A great tip" is the subject line.

Basically, it says that if you ever lock your keys in your car, and the car has remote keyless entry, there's no need to freak out.

All you have to do is use your cell phone to call home - or wherever there's someone with your spare key.

Then hold your cell about a foot from the car door while the person with the spare key clicks the unlock button on the remote.

"Your car will unlock!" the e-mail says. "It works!"

And distance is no object! You can be hundreds of miles away!

Anyway, after reading the e-mail, I thought: This is the greatest thing I've ever heard of.

So I told everyone I knew about it. I told people at work. I told neighbors. I told friends and family members in other states.

I was a latter-day Paul Revere, spreading the news far and wide.

People thanked me profusely.

My chest swelled with pride.

I felt like a genius.

This feeling lasted exactly one day.

Because early the next morning, my friend Mike marched up to me at work and said: "That thing about the cell phone opening the car locks? That's a bunch of bull. It's even listed as an urban myth on the Internet."

Well. No one attacks my credibility without a fight. Or at least some whining on my part.

"Oh, yeah?" I said. "I bet it does work. Let's try it ourselves and see what happens. Unless you're too chicken. BAWK! BAWK! BAWK! BAWK!"

That's me, Mr. Mature.

So at noon, Mike and I went out to a nearby parking lot, which is not exactly where you want to hang out on your lunch hour.

Our friend Sandy let us conduct our little test on her Honda Accord, a good solid car for such a bold, potentially life-changing experiment.

The ground rules were simple: Sandy would be in her office, which was far enough away from her car so that her keyless remote couldn't unlock the doors on its own.

Mike and I would stand by her car with our cell phones. She'd call us, we'd hold our cells up to the car, she'd click the unlock button on her remote and ... well, we'd see what happened.

Did I mention it was pouring rain outside?

And that our only protection was these two tiny red umbrellas right out of the Mary Poppins collection that Sandy lent us?

I should probably mention that.

Anyway, for the next few minutes, Mike and I took turns holding our cell phones to the car door, then barking at Sandy: "Did you click it?"

"I clicked it! I clicked it!" she kept shouting.

"Nothing's happening!" we'd shout back.

And nothing ever did happen. You can't imagine how dumb I felt. The people who send these stupid e-mails, they should be beaten with sticks.

Back inside, I did a little research on the Internet and found one of those Web sites that debunks rumors and hoaxes.

Oh, they'd heard all about this cell phone-unlocking-the-car-door business. And they knew it was bull, too.

It turns out the radio frequency signal your keyless remote sends to unlock your car can't be effectively relayed via cell phone, since the two operate on vastly different frequencies.

So much for the great tip.

Probably sent by the same lonely Russian woman who's dying to meet me.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad