Online sleuths help man recover stolen car
Driver tracks down stolen car in M'sia with help of netizens
When his eight-year-old white Honda Civic was stolen at a car wash earlier this month, Mr Joe Ong thought that he would never get it back.
But thanks to social media, not only will Mr Ong recover his car, the alleged culprit who stole it was also caught.
The 35-year-old, who runs an online marketing company, told The New Paper on Monday: "A lot of people helped to find my car by sharing Facebook posts and uploading whatever information they had. The best part is that they were not asking for any rewards."
Mr Ong had driven to Johor Baru for a one-day trip on July 5 with his business partner and a mutual friend.
At about 6pm, he parked his car for washing at a car wash near KSL City mall.
TNP GRAPHICS: JANESSA TAN
"I've been patronising the same car wash about once a month, or once every two months, for the past five years," said Mr Ong, who added that the car wash supervisor was familiar with him.
Mr Ong and his friends went shopping and had dinner and returned to collect the car at about 10pm, but were shocked to find it missing.
"My first thought was, 'Are you serious?' Then I got the staff to call their supervisor," said Mr Ong.
The supervisor drove them to a police station to make a police report that same night.
The next day, he drove them to the police station again. He also drove them to the Singapore consulate general in JB to get temporary passes back to Singapore because their passports were in the car.
"He also paid for our meals and accommodation in a hotel, where we stayed for one night," said Mr Ong's business partner, Miss Fermelle Ho, 29.
Mr Ong said he also called the banks to cancel all the credit cards he had left inside the car.
"But I think they missed out one card," he added.
From the phone calls he made, he found out that a few credit card transactions had already been made on July 5 and July 6. The transactions added up to more than RM3,000 (S$1,000).
On July 6, Mr Ong and his friends returned to Singapore.
The next day, his brother posted about the incident on his Facebook page.
The news was also reported in local website The Local Society and in a local Chinese daily.
For the next two or three weeks, there was no news about the car.
Then, at about midnight on Saturday, Mr Ong got his first clue when someone sent him a video of a car that resembled his.
The driver of the car had allegedly driven away from a petrol kiosk in Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan, without paying.
"A stranger sent me a video of the car driving off from the kiosk, saying that it looks similar to my car. The stranger added that people online are suspecting it's a stolen car," he said.
Mr Ong said the car did look like his, but with a different licence plate.
The video was also shared on the Singapore Reckless Drivers' Facebook page.
Netizens joined in on the hunt, sleuthing for details on the car. They discovered that the vehicle linked to the car's Singapore licence plate had actually been deregistered.
"About 10 people contacted me to update me about the car that looked like mine," said Mr Ong.
On Sunday, at about 11am, he received a phone call from a couple in Malacca telling him that they saw the car parked outside Herald Hotel in Malacca.
"They took photos of the car and sent them to me," said Mr Ong.
He recognised the car as his, through its accessories and from a small crack on its bumper.
Later, someone gave him the phone number of the Malacca police. Mr Ong's acquaintance, who was in Malacca, also went to the hotel to see if he could prevent the thief from driving the car away, like puncture a tyre.
"But he arrived at the hotel at the same time the police did. And a man in a blue top was arrested," said Mr Ong.
He said he gave the Malaysian police his car engine number and that the police confirmed that the car is his. He also added that he will probably be able to get his car back in a few days' time.
"People went the extra mile to help us and we're grateful," said Mr Ong.
Miss Ho added: "We are really amazed by the power of social media and we're thankful towards everyone who helped."
A lot of people helped to find my car by sharing Facebook posts and uploading whatever information they had. The best part is that they were not asking for any rewards.
- Mr Joe Ong