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Unlock your car door with a cell phone! You could pay a surcharge for buying gas at the pump with a credit card! Your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) could be used by thieves to steal your car!
E-mails with these headlines are probably cluttering your inbox right now. But they're urban legends, those rumors repeated so routinely that they must be true. Or are they? Here, I take a look at a few of the most popular automobile urban legends out there and uncover whether they're true or false.
Can you unlock your car door with a cell phone? No. Your car door will not magically unlock if someone with your spare remote holds it up to the phone and presses the button. As remote entry devices work on radio waves and not sound waves, your cell phone cannot send the signal needed to unlock the door. The technology's not here…or at least, not yet.
Will you be charged $10 for buying gas with a card? No. Gas stations are not charging you a fee for using credit or debit cards at the pump. Since the amount of the purchase is not known until the gas is pumped, stations may put a pre-authorization hold on your purchase. This amount can vary, but most gas stations set the authorization for $1. The estimated total stays in the system until the actual amount reaches the issuer. These holds do not show up on mailed bank statements but can appear online, only to disappear within a day or two.
Can thieves use your VIN to have a key made to your car? Yes and no. It's true that these numbers can be used to generate a new key for many cars. But most reputable dealerships require people wanting a key made to provide proof of ownership. The law requires these numbers to remain visible on your vehicle, and while covering them up may protect you from having a thief make a copy of your key, the numbers are valuable to police to locate and recover your car if it is stolen.
Jennifer Cash is a contributing editor for
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