Beware of the Flat Tire Scam

Beware of the flat tire scamI truly believe that most people around the world are good, but the small percentage of bad apples out there can still make life difficult for travelers. That’s why it’s important to stay aware of the travel scams out there, like this one and this one. One trick that’s been around for a while (but that I’d never heard of) is the flat tire scam, which I recently read about as a reader mistake story on TPG. After I read that story, I went to Google and quickly found plenty of similar stories, in Costa Rica and even the good ol’ U.S. of A.

The scam usually works like this: The con artist picks you out as a tourist by identifying your car as a rental, maybe via its license plates or luggage popping out of it. Then, he or she drives up next to you in either a motorbike or a car and signals to/tells you that you have a flat tire. The person directs you to pull over to a secluded road where they and someone they’re with can “help,” but once you’re pulled over, you’re in trouble. One person discreetly punctures your tire while the other distracts you by talking—and then they steal your luggage.

Of course it’s possible to pop a car tire for real, and that someone might want to help you if that happens. So the lesson here is this: If someone tells you have a flat tire on the road, know that it’s at least possible that they have other motives. Don’t stop unless you can feel your tire is flat, pull into the nearest gas station, and guard your bags.

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Johnny Jet
I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

2 Comments on "Beware of the Flat Tire Scam"

  1. The Costa Rica flat tire trick got me. Less than a mile after stopping for gas, a tire blew out. A truck, car and tractor immediatelly pulled up and 7 or 8 men started unloading our luggage to get to the spare. All of a sudden they all dissapeared.
    The case i had put under the front seat was gone! Taken: my passport, drivers license cash, camera and credit cards.
    A nightmare. The only thing that saved me was I had made copies of my passport, drivers license, credit cards too. It cost 2 days going-getting replacement/-returning to/from San Jose where the American Embassy was.
    Another crisis was I had AAA money orders. My wife called from USA and I called from CR. AAA USA refused to send me replacements. Why.? The AAA office said nope, the small print says AAA not responsible, contact third party in London, England. It was horrible. I pleaded with AAA for helping me. Repeadily I was told to contact London. England.
    Lesson Buy American Express Travelers checks..they will help you immediately.

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