By Thandi Skade

If your number plates are being flashed to you from another car, resist the urge to stop - they might be hijackers.

According to an e-mail doing the rounds, hijackers are removing motorists' number plates in an attempt to get them out of their cars.

They "stalk" motorists to a parking lot or mall, wait for them to park and leave their car before removing the plates, the e-mail says.

The hijackers wait for the victim to return, follow them on to the road and then overtake them while displaying the number plate at their window.

This makes the victim think they have lost the plate and that the hijackers want to give it back.

"Shocked that your number plate has fallen off your car, you bring your vehicle to a halt to get it from them. This is all they want you to do, and by the time you realise what has happened, it is too late - your car was hijacked or you could have been raped or killed," the e-mail reads.

It warns motorists against stopping for anything, because their lives are more valuable than a number plate.

"Think about what is happening before you react to it. Criminals are clever and cunning but are ruthless in getting what they want."

Gauteng police spokesman Superintendent Lungelo Dlamini said that while he thought the e-mail was a hoax, one should never underestimate the lengths to which potential hijackers were willing to go.

"There's a possibility for anything, but it's the first time I've heard of it," he said.

Tips for protecting yourself against hijackings:

  • Have your key on you, but not visible.

  • Inspect the outside and inside of the vehicle before unlocking. Check the tyres, number plates and the other side of the car.

  • Know your destination and directions to it, and be alert if you get lost.

  • Always drive with your windows closed and doors locked.

  • Make a mental note of any police stations in the area.

  • When stopping behind another vehicle, leave at least half-a-car's length in front of your vehicle so you can make an emergency escape if necessary.

  • Never open your vehicle window or door for any stranger. If a suspicious-looking person is near your unoccupied vehicle, don't approach it.