I 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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