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LAPD Apologizes for Bogus UPS Alert; Urban Myth Has Long History

The Los Angeles Police Department has retracted an emailed alert—supposedly from Homeland Security—warning of terrorists posed as UPS drivers.

The proof that it's a paranoid urban legend has been circulating for years, but that didn't stop the LAPD's West Valley Division from sending out an email alert Friday afternoon warning of terrorists dressed as UPS drivers.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, $32,000 worth of used UPS uniforms had just been sold on eBay, the LAPD message repeated. These uniforms could be used by terrorists dressed as drivers to deliver bombs.

Follow-up email retracted the warning and apologized 73 minutes after the first 2:15  email blast.

The alarming notice came through Nixle.com, an Internet portal that enables subscribers to "get secure alerts free from your local police":

There has been a huge purchase, $32,000 worth, of United Parcel Service (UPS) uniforms on eBay over the last 30 days. This could represent a serious threat as bogus drivers (terrorists) can drop off anything to anyone with deadly consequences! If you have ANY questions when a UPS driver appears at your door they should be able to furnish VALID I.D. 

Additionally, if someone in a UPS uniform comes to make a drop off or pick up, make absolutely sure they are driving a UPS truck. UPS doesn't make deliveries or pickups in anything, except a company vehicle. If you have a problem, call your local law enforcement agency right away! 

TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY! Tell everyone in your office, your family, your friends, etc. Make people aware so that we can prepare and/or avoid terrorist attacks on our people! Thank you for your time in reviewing this and PLEASE send to EVERYONE on your list, even if they are friend or foe. We should all be aware!

This is not the first time this message has scared cyberspace. The Washington Post saw it in 2003 and Internet myth busting sites such as Snopes.com have listed it for years.  

Why did the West Valley LAPD send this out via Nixle? Someone at another California law enforcement agency sent it to West Valley, said the next Nixle alert:

Hi Dennis Wilen,

Community Message has been issued by the LAPD - West Valley.

Friday April 29, 2011 3:25 PM PDT

UPS Uniforms *** UPDATE ***

Unfortunately the info re: UPS Uniforms came from another Law Enforcement Agency in the State of California purporting the validity of the information. This "INFO" is, apparently an Internet myth. 

However, the advice is good in that you should always verify the delivery service has arrived with their own company vehicle. 

Our deepest APOLOGIZES from the LAPD WVY Area !!!

For full details, go to https://local.nixle.com/alert/4685249/?sub_id=434590.

Contact Information: 
Rudolph Valadez 
West Valley Area 
818-374-7630 31197@lapd.lacity.org

UPS Director of Global Media Services Norman Black has heard it all before.

"This urban legend resurfaces every few years," he told Brentwood Patch in a phone call from Georgia. "I never know where it will come from next."

The worldwide delivery service takes special care to track its distinctive brown vans and uniforms, he said, and noted that any driver would be happy to show identification when asked.

"I don't know why this story would crop up again now," he said. "Maybe it reflects people's fears."


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