This is another scam that has been going for decades, and there are numerous variations. Car rental compaies in France, Spain and Portugal often alert drivers of rental cars to this scam, but foreign number plates are often a giveaway for this scam to kick off. This scam also relies on the fact that most modern cars have central locking.
The worst case is that your car tyre is slashed by someone - usually on a motorbike - at a traffic light or roundabout just comng into the city. The same motorbike then alerts you to the fact that you have a flat tyre, at an appropriate place (for them). As you open the car door, to crane your neck and have a look, you are also unlocking all of the other doors. This is the perfect opportunity for the robbers to open the back door and take off with anything you happen to have left on view, on the back seat or on the parcel shelf. You are then stuck with a slashed tyre, and lost belongings. The motorbike gives a perfect and speedy getaway, and often people can't even give an accurate description, as it all happens so fast.
I must insist that the actual slashing of the tyre is obviously very very rare, as for this scam to work, you don't even need to have a flat tyre. Very often the simple suggestion that you do have one is sufficient for anyone with common sense to stop and have a quick look.
The variation usually happens very cheekily in the city centre, at a relatively busy pedestrian crossing or traffic light again. As your car stops at the front of the queue, a pedestrian crossing the road in front of you grabs your attention to alert you that it looks like you have a flat tyre, or that your headlights/indicator are not working. The same procedure occurs - the accomplice is cunningly waiting by the back seat or even the passenger door, and runs off with a bag or a phone.
One way to protect against this scam is to be wary agaianst any kind of alert or unsolicited help. If you feel that the suggestion is genuine and that you may have a flat tyre, find a safe place to stop in your own time, preferably away from the people who have told you about the supposed flat. Of course, the best way to protect against this scam is to not leave any valuables on show in your car. It's also essential that you drive with all the doors locked while you are inside the car, and only open them if you can clearly see around you and have everything inside the car accounted for. The reason for the success of all of these scams is that they are so easy to fall for, as they use a series of distraction techniques, and you always feel so silly after it has happened, and even as you read this you may be forgiven for thinking that it would never happen to you, but believe me, it's easy to fall for - I've seen it a few times on busy streets like Via Laietana, for example. Hopefully my tips will help it from happening to you next time!
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