Beware of common road scams in cities

The thieves and con-men are active again. Many friends in the CarToq community have also become victims to some of the oldest tricks in the book – scams on the road, which have relieved them of their mobile phones, wallets and other valuables.

This is a listing of the common scams, collated from various experiences, which should serve as an advisory to all of you reading this. Be alert, lock your doors and drive safe. Also read: Seven lies car dealers tell you

Bump and steal scam

This is an increasingly common scam on the streets of Delhi especially. And it happens in crowded traffic. The thieves usually operate in pairs. They single out cars with just one occupant usually, and look for those that have mobile phones, bags, laptops kept on the passenger seat or rear seat.

This usually happens in slow moving, bumper-to-bumper traffic or at traffic signals in crowded areas. One of the thieves walking through traffic “accidentally” bumps against your car at the rear, and then rushes to the passenger window claiming you ran over his foot or knocked him with your car. If you open the passenger window to talk to him, you are asking for trouble. At the same time, you usually have another passer-by (his accomplice) come and bang on the driver’s side window to get your attention, yelling wildly. The moment you turn towards him, the first thief reaches into the car through the window or even opens the door picks up your valuables and scoots off in heavy traffic knowing you can’t follow him leaving your car unattended in the middle of the road.

If you do face such an encounter, don’t open your window. Ignore him and drive off, and if possible report it to the next police personnel you see. Don’t leave valuables in plain view and always, always, lock your doors at all times. Also read: How to safeguard your car against theft

Fake address scam

This one is more of an upmarket scam, which again takes place at marketplaces or traffic lights, when you are getting into your car or waiting for someone. The seemingly decent thief usually has a getaway vehicle with an accomplice nearby. He walks over to your car, taps on our window with a slip of paper, asking directions to an address or for help to decipher something on it. The moment you open your window to read the note or look through his papers, he makes off with your mobile phone, wallet or bag.

This is one of the reasons people no longer help each other on the road. No one knows who to trust anymore. Before you decide to help someone like this make sure all your valuables are secure first and doors remain locked.

Car puncture scam

There are two variations to the car puncture scam. One is where unscrupulous elements actually puncture your tyre with a sharp object when you’re waiting at a traffic signal or just leaving a parking lot in a crowded market. They follow you on a motorcycle and then flag you down saying you have a puncture. This is a set up for a mugging or a quick snatching of your valuables.

The other variation to this scam is where you actually don’t have a puncture, but these “helpful” passing motorists flag you down pointing to your car’s wheels and saying you have a puncture. When you stop to check, you could be asking for trouble.

If you see such motorists flagging you down, don’t stop immediately. If you genuinely do have a puncture you will feel it in the steering and in the way the car is moving. Even then, don’t stop immediately, but get to a spot that is well-lit and you are out of harm’s way. Get suspicious if these bike-borne good Samaritans also stop. Also read: The danger of spurious spares in your car

Car fire scam

This is an old trick in the book and is less prevalent in Delhi, but more often used in Mumbai and even in Bangalore, again on busy streets. This scam is pulled off by a gang of 3-4 thieves. It starts with one pedestrian flagging you down saying there’s a fire in your car. If you ignore him, a second one a little further away, seemingly unrelated to the first, flags you down, and this will surely begin to worry you. If you stop, you’re asking for trouble in two ways.

One, you will get a “helpful” person come and offer to check the car for you. This person will be a mechanic or will know a mechanic who can fix your car and they pull off a clean scam by replacing a perfectly useful part with another second-hand part and take your money.

The other way is just like the other scams listed above, where one distracts you about the fire, while a second looks for an open door or window in the car and makes off with your valuables. Also read: Car fires: Do’s and don’ts

Parking attendant scam

The parking attendant scam is really a very low-value one. It works in places where you don’t really know the real “parking charges” levied in a parking lot. Most parking lots charge different amounts depending on the duration you have parked your car. It’s usually one amount for up to four hours and a second amount for the full day. Many unscrupulous parking attendants have their parking tokens printed in such a way that they tear off the stub just halfway and it looks like the amount to be charged for a full day is the amount that is normally charged for a short duration of parking.

If you suspect the charges always ask to see the full parking ticket and not a half-torn one. It also goes without saying that you should never leave your car keys with a parking attendant – it’s one of the primary sources of key duplication leading to a bigger theft later.

Share any more such scams you’ve encountered on the road with the CarToq community. Common petrol pump scams is an area we’ll cover in another article. Also read: Five ways service stations cheat you