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Is that a cop or an impostor pulling you over? (Seth Pe... Is that a cop or an impostor pulling you over? (Seth Periman, AP).
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That navy blue sedan behind you with the flashing blue light on the dash is probably a cop -- but it could be a creep using police paraphernalia to get you to pull over. Nearly every other week in America, a fraud uses a fake badge to enter someone's home or convince them to pull over on the highway.

How to tell the difference? And what should you do if you're not sure?

In the United States, almost all traffic enforcement work is done by police driving one of the following vehicles:

The problem is that these vehicles are also sold to civilians -- and it's pretty easy to dress one up so that it looks very much like an undercover police car. In fact, there are police supply stores that will sell everything a dirtbag needs to make himself look like the real deal -- right down to the uniform and fake ID.

Some departments also use unconventional cars for pursuit work. For example, the Ford Mustang LX 5.0 was very popular in the 1980s for speed limit enforcement; today, some departments use unmarked Camaro Z28s -- and even Corvettes -- for the same purpose.

This is pretty scary, since we're all taught to obey the commands of law enforcement officers -- and when a police-looking car is trying to get us to pull over, every instinct tells us to comply.

Still, it's important to use your head.

First, have you done something to deserve being pulled over? If you've been driving within 5-mph of the posted speed limit and haven't broken any traffic laws that you're aware of, your guard should be up if all of a sudden there's an unmarked car on your tail with its lights flashing -- especially if it's out in the middle of nowhere and late at night. While radar traps are a reality, most of the time, we get pulled over for a reason -- and we know perfectly well what it is. So if you honestly haven't done anything wrong that you're aware of -- and the "officer" just appeared out of nowhere -- you're right to be suspicious -- particularly if you are female and traveling alone.

Second, if the vehicle attempting to pull you over is not a clearly marked police cruiser -- or a car or truck that isn't routinely used for police work (especially if it's an older/broken down-looking vehicle) and your "creep radar" is telling you something's just not right -- you should slow down (to indicate you are not trying to get away, in case it is a real police officer), signal your intent to pull over -- but only do so when you can find a well-lit, public place with other people around, such as a shopping mall parking lot. Or, you can pull over immediately -- but keep your doors locked and only crack the window enough to pass your driver's license and registration through.

Third, get a good look at the "officer" and his credentials. If the "officer" is not in uniform, refuses to show you his badge -- or just flashes it briefly, so you can't get a good look -- keep that window rolled up and those doors locked tightly. Ask once more to see his credentials. If he won't let you, tell the "officer" that you'd like for him to call another officer to the scene. This is your right -- and while it may aggravate the officer if he is in fact the real deal, it could save your life if he's not. A real officer will understand your concern and have no problem with calling a fellow officer (or supervisor) to the scene. There have been several cases of women being abducted and raped by thugs impersonating police -- and most departments are very sensitive to people's legitimate concerns on this score.

Fourth, if the "officer" starts acting oddly when you ask to see his ID -- threatening you, behaving in a non-professional manner, pounding on your door, etc. -- seriously consider putting the car in gear and getting out of there. Tell the "officer" you are uncomfortable and that you will gladly follow him (or be escorted to) to the nearest police station. If you have a cell phone, immediately dial 911 -- and tell the operator that you have been pulled over by someone who claims to be a police officer but that you think he might not be a real cop. Tell the operator exactly where you are -- and stay on the line. If it's a real officer, you'll know very soon. If it's not, the guy will almost certainly take off at this point. (Caution: Only take this step in a situation that clearly doesn't feel right as you risk an "attempt to elude" charge if it is, indeed, a real police officer. But again, better safe than sorry given the stakes.)

These precautions -- and some common sense -- should keep you from getting anything worse than another traffic ticket.



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  • 223 Comments
      • 6 Months Ago
      ALWAYS ask for their ID!!! Sometimes they get upset at this...******** your right!
      David
      • 6 Months Ago
      I dont think either 1 or 2 are sufficient. If you give the person your drivers license, now they know your address. A well lit parking area doesnt mean its safe either. I think its better to just ask to go to the nearest police station OR call 911 to confirm
      hubbardbro
      • 6 Months Ago
      as for the cop on here who just wants to help people let me see ******** not only are the cops bullies but cowards as well i am a for real vet no cop can protect you all they can do is react after the fact thats why i call them afterfactors as far as being pulled over by fake cops which by the way they all are if they are armed and you have pulled over what damn good is it to craCK YOUR WINDOW DOWN. PLEASE TELL ALL THE COPS OUT THERE TO HAVE MARKED CARS OR WE ALL WILL HAVE SHOOT OUTS AT THE OK CORRAL NOW QUIT TRYING TO RAISE MONEY BY RADAR TRAPS GET A LIFE
      Nathaniel
      • 6 Months Ago
      If its in the middle of nowhere, late at night, and you're alone, play it safe and just shoot the guy then take his videocamera and recorder. Of course, if he has those items, chances are real good you just shot a police officer. You're screwed.
      • 6 Months Ago
      I often worry that this situation will happen to me!
      • 6 Months Ago
      this ppened to my cousin the guy asked my cousin to step out of he car in mid daylight and searched her car then he told her to shut the ******* and get the hell out of there... when she got to the familys house she noticed that her wallet was missing with her work info and home address... scary.. scary..
      • 6 Months Ago
      my random grammer on a random site is very different then actully court documents im actully quite educated with a masters in Computer Foresics at University of Maryland. I could make more money doing other job but ive been ably hel many over these past 3 years i love my job but cant stand wreckless driver that wont acknowlege that thats what they are.
      • 6 Months Ago
      Filmmaker. WE appreciate your suppport
      scicooks
      • 6 Months Ago
      I will not pull over for anyone!
      • 6 Months Ago
      Hi. I was recently pulled over by a chevy trailblazer? the "cop" was very cocky, flashed his badge, and wasnt in uniform. He took my info back to his car, then came back smiling, and all happy. is it possible he was a fake?
      • 6 Months Ago
      This is a terribly written article, filled with fear mongering and misinformation. I've been a police officer for years now. If you suspect a vehicle is not operated by a police officer, don't stop in the middle of nowhere and "open your window a little". These are the proper steps: First, activate your emergency flashers when a police cruiser pulls behind you. This indicates that you have acknowledged his/her presence. Decelerate. If you do not know what button does this, its a Red triangle usually on the steering column or the center console. Second, pull into a well-lit, populated area before stopping and do not open your window all the way. OR If you are driving on a highway or are not near civilization and you legitimately suspect the officer is fake, dial 9-1-1. Tell the dispatcher your location, direction of travel, vehicle make, model and color. Inquire as to whether or not an Officer is attempting to pull you over. Continue driving at a reduced speed with your emergency flashers activated. Never assume the officer is a fake and speed away. Unless you want to chalk up several moving violations and start a pursuit, that is. The steps regarding identifying the officer are good. However, just because a cop is yelling at you or smacking your car doesn't mean hes fake - It just means he's unprofessional.
      • 6 Months Ago
      IN NYC I see unmarked cars stopping people all the time. I wonder if they would get mad if you asked for a patrol car to come to the scene.
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