Q COSTA RICA NEWS – The scenario: a woman or man approaches you and says that she has an emergency and needs cash urgently, she hands you a check for ¢50,000 colones to which she is willing to accept from you only ¢40,000. Wow, you just made ¢10,000 colones and you feel good for having helped out someone in a tight situation. Oh, but wait, at the bank you are told the check is no good, maybe no funds or worse, counterfeit.

That is one of the new scams with the arrival of the Aguinaldo,  the year-end bonus, explains Nils Ching, deputy director of the Fuerza Publica (police), as thieves invent new ways to bring down their victims.

The other new scam (timo in Spanish) that has been detected, says Ching, is the scammers offering strangers gold bracelets, at very low prices. Those who fall into this scam, learn later to learn that it is bronze.

According to Ching, these thieves generally look for older adults or people who are in a hurry and coming out of an ATM or bank.

The deputy director insists that, especially in times of the Aguinaldo, it is very important to always be accompanied and not show the money that was just taken from the ATM or bank.

Just think for a moment, we’ve all done it, without thinking, walk away from an ATM or walk out of a bank with cash in hand, sometimes even counting or sorting it before placing in the wallet or purse? This an oversight that quickly can place you in the crosshairs of scammers.

Like every beginning of December, when the Aguinaldo hits the streets, the call is being made to for people to be extra careful.

The prevent robberies and assaults, the Fuerza Publica will reinforce its presence, with more than 5,000 police officials on special detail between noon and 10:00pm, the hours which according to Ching, is the peak time for thieves.

In downtown San Jose, police erect watch towers along the pedestrian boulevards. Archive photo
In downtown San Jose, police erect watch towers along the pedestrian boulevards. Archive photo

A good practice to avoid becoming a victim while walking the streets is to dress down, leave the jewellery and accessories at home or locked in the car, in the parking lot and carry only the cash you plan to spend for the outing. Carry plastic if at all possible and the phone numbers of the card issuer to immediately report the loss. You would be amazed how quickly thieves can empty your account.

And don’t be walking around with you cell phone in your ear or sticking out of your pocket or purse. Keep the cell phone out of sight, answer calls only in an emergency and then keep the calls short. Don’t make yourself a target.

Important to keep an eye on your surroundings (hard to do is you are on a phone call). And if a deal sounds to good to be true, it is usually isn’t.

Carlos Zuniga, acting head of the Fraud Section of the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ) warns of counterfeit ¢20,000 and ¢50,000 colones notes in circulation.

Zuniga, in a press conference, gave details of the recent arrest of a couple in La Carpio for passing counterfeit bills.

“When the person receives a counterfeit note, they destroy it or go to a bank to return it and in some cases, gets re-inserted in the market,” he said.

Both Zuniga and Ching agree that people should file a report when they become a victim of a scam.

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