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Your Parked Car Gets Dinged By an Unknown Driver. Now What?

A British reader named Dominic Ellison sends the following photo and note:

I saw the attached notice in the window of a neighbor’s car that had been pranged and lost its bumper.

I felt that it was an interesting test in game theory and was reminded of what I think is called the Prisoner’s Dilemma, as the reader must certainly ask a number of questions:

Does the owner really have CCTV evidence? If so, why does the poster not allude to make, model or registration?

Would the consequences be genuinely worse if not come forward? For example, was it a drink driver not wishing to be identified at the time?

In case you have a hard time reading this, here’s what it says:

The driver who did this damage to my car has till end of week, to come and see me.

You were filmed on CCTV and recorded.

If I do not hear from you by end of the week I will take the tape to the police. That will cost you more than replacing the bumper.

I know more than you think. Surprising the damage a small car can do. 

0782 635 9091
172 Waller Ro.

It strikes me that it costs the victim nothing to make the threat, so it is quite possible that he/she is lying about the existence of the CCTV footage. Interestingly, however, he/she is perhaps inviting further trouble (from any- and everyone) by listing his/her phone number and address.

On the other hand, depending on the source of the CCTV footage — did the camera belong to a shop? a municipal government? etc.? — it is quite likely an ordeal to get the tape and take it to the police, as threatened. Moreover, it may be hard to get the police to pursue the case if it was only a fender-bender (or, as Dominic might put it, a bumper-pranger).

What would you do if you were the guilty party (and, of course, just happened to revisit the scene of the crime and see the sign — perhaps the most unlikely element of this whole story)?

What evidence do you think the victim really has? Is the “small car” crack simply a bet on the favorite?

And what do you think overall of how the victim has played the game? What might have been some better options?