Although the Costa del Sol is still a relatively safe area, the influx of summer visitors does lead to a rise in petty crime and an increase in the number of cons and scams being perpetrated against the unwary, particularly tourists and the elderly.
Just by taking normal precautions and by being alert, much heartache can be spared.
We have probably all done it at some time, been so relieved at going on holiday after all the stresses and strains of everyday life that we leave our brains at home and fall for things that, under normal circumstances, we would never fall for.
Here, we take a look at some of the more common cons and scams which occur with alarming regularity during the summer months.
The Gas Inspectors
Bogus gas inspectors appear along the Costa del Sol at regular intervals, but more so in the summer when they can take advantage of the unwary or elderly.
These gas inspectors invariably go from door to door, informing you that it is a legal requirement to have your gas installation checked every five years and that now is the time. These individuals can be very convincing and may even produce identification documents.
However, once they have spent a couple of minutes looking at your installation, and maybe changing a gas pipe, they will then present you with a bill which could be anything up to €700 in some cases.
It is true that gas installations have to be checked every five years, it is a legal requirement, but the gas companies will NEVER go from door to door touting for business and will NEVER appear on your doorstep to carry out an inspection unless YOU have made a PRIOR APPOINTMENT by calling THEM.
If so-called gas inspectors knock on your door and you yourself have not made a prior appointment, DO NOT LET HIM IN UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.
It is also worth notifying your local Council and/or the Local Police.
The Flower Sellers
The summer months brings out the so-called gypsy flower sellers and they are very good at what they do, which is to relieve you of your purse or wallet.
They will invariably approach you, a single flower in hand, and as you go for your purse or wallet, they will insist that no payment is necessary. However, by this time, you will have inadvertently let them know where you keep your money.
A flower will then be pressed into your hand, regardless of whether you have said yes or no, and this traditional distraction will allow the lady or her accomplice to relieve you of your cash.
Not so common, but it still happens on a regular basis. You are approached by two people, who could be wearing what looks, to all intents and purposes, like official identification around their necks, to sign some sort of petition, perhaps to gain support for an emergency or life-saving operation for a child or maybe to ask for your support for some campaign or other.
While one of them holds the clipboard for you to sign the petition, the other one relieves you of your money.
The Busy Shopper
A shopper in a supermarket, arms full of goods rather than using a basket or trolley, makes an unsuccessful attempt to reach something from a high shelf and asks if you would be so kind as to reach it for them. While you are stretching up to that top shelf item, your wallet (or handbag if you are a woman and have been wandering around the shop with your bag hanging on your trolley) disappears.
The Holiday Survey
You are approached by someone with a clipboard and a bundle of papers and engaged in light-hearted conversation about your holiday. You are then asked if you wouldn’t mind answering a few questions for a ‘holiday survey’.
At some point, two scratchcards are produced and, lo and behold, one of you has won the ‘big prize’. However, you can only find out what this prize is and collect it if you agree to go along to their office and attend a short presentation.
The ‘short presentation’ tends to last about four hours and is a hard sell, with many bewildered people eventually agreeing to purchase some sort of holiday or agreeing to join a club of some description. Getting out of such an agreement, particularly after you get back home and receive more demands for money, has proved very difficult or even impossible in countless documented cases.
The Flat Tyre
You are driving on your own and, after stopping at a service station, you have not been driving many metres when someone in a car behind you signals or shouts to tell you that you seem to have a flat tyre.
You pull over, as does the kind motorist who informed you, and jump out to have a look. Your tyre is indeed flat, or certainly deflating.
While you’re chatting to the kind motorist and having a look at the tyre, any valuables in the front of the car are removed by an unseen accomplice. It is amazing how many people, after stopping at a service station, initially dump their wallet on the front seat or dashboard and drive off.
What you didn’t see, of course, was your tyre being slashed while you were paying for your petrol. It is always a wise idea to get into the routine of locking your car door at service stations even if you are only going to walk a few metres to the cash desk. It doesn’t take many seconds for the professionals to remove any valuables.
You attempt to get money from an ATM and your card gets stuck. Nearby is someone on the phone who notices you and says he just had the same problem and is talking to the bank right now to fix the problem. He says if you give him your details, such as pin number, he will get your problem sorted at the same time. How kind, especially as he is undoubtedly the one responsible for your card getting stuck in the machine in the first place.
Alarm bells should already be ringing in your head. Your pin number is for YOU ONLY and should never be divulged to ANYONE, not even a bank or official or even a policeman. No-one, apart from you yourself, has the right to know your private pin number. As an added note, no legitimate institution or anyone in a position of authority will ever ask you to divulge a pin number, or any other sensitive information, in an email.
You’ve got a lovely ground floor apartment or villa, nice terrace and it’s hot. You open the windows. You then decide to have a siesta, or a shower maybe, and when you get back you find your bag or wallet has disappeared from the table, either from the terrace or even inside.
Never leave valuables in plain view, even for a moment, as it gives the opportunist thief time to strike. There are even cases where the thieves have used fishing rods to remove bags from tables while the occupants of the house nip to another room for just a moment.
The Dirty Shirt
Someone approaches and says you have ice cream, bird crap or some other mess on your back and starts to brush it off for you. Alarm bells. It is just the ‘touch’ distraction necessary for the person or their accomplice to remove your valuables from your person without you feeling a thing.
It is highly unlikely that you will fall victim to any of these, but it pays to always be alert and on your guard, even on holiday.