QCOSTARICA – The Organismo de Investigacion Judicial (OIJ) is warning of the latest scam on our roads, targeting mainly men over 55 and driving older cars.
According to the OIJ warning, 3-5 antisocials operate between 10:00am and 3:00pm in the areas of San Jose and Alajuela.
The modus operandi (m.o.) is one of the antisocials to point out nicely to the driver a problem with a tire (or other part of the vehicle) and to pull over. Once at the curb, while talking, “out of the blue” appears another, claiming to be a mechanic having or having had the same problem.
This is all part of the scam, if you haven’t figured it out yet.
On closer inspection, the (alleged) mechanic finds “serious” problems and offers to repair the vehicle, which is accepted by the intended victim. After a phone call, another, forming part of the gang, appears with a sealed box containing parts for the particular made and model of car, who now demands payment of ¢500,000 colones, the easy way or the hard way.
The OIJ says at least five people have fallen to the ruse. “If the person (victim) is not carrying cash, one of the antisocials will offer to accompany him/her to the nearest ATM, under intimidation or force,” says the OIJ warning.
This is a variation from a scam that has mainly targeted – targets, though we haven’t seen any reports lately – vacationers, opting to tour the country in a rented vehicle.
In this scam, the scenario goes something like this: you arrive in Costa Rica, pick up your rental car and bam, a few miles later you have flat tire. What bad luck. But, is the bad luck or a planned robbery?
Unbeknownst to the vacationer, somewhere between picking up the rental car and the flat, the antisocials got a chance to puncture one or more of the tires, with a slow leak puncture. Once the driver – the vacationer – pulls over to fix the flat, ‘angels from heaven’ appear to help out. And they do, they help themselves to their victim’s belongings.
The recommendation in the above cases (or any variation) is to keep driving – even with a flat tire* – to the nearest spot where there are people around, even better if it is a police, Red Cross (Cruz Roja) or fire station or gasoline station. The damage to the vehicle is nothing compared to the personal risk.
Vacationers are targeted given the antisocials know well that their victim is unlikely to file a complaint with the OIJ or will stick around for the trial.
If you are victim of a scam you should contact the nearest OIJ office or call 800-8000-645.
* I once had a similar situation, a tire gone flat, at 2am driving through in the zona roja (scuzzy area leading to Barrio Mexico or La Uruca) of downtown San Jose. I kept driving. It was a SUV with large tires. Luckily I found a gas station (that was open – most downtown gasoline stations are open 24 hours) less than a kilometre away, but was prepared to drive until it was, I felt safe to stop. In my case, I filled the tire with air and was on my way. Found later it was a slow leak from a valve stem. But during the incident in the back of my mind I kept thinking of the stories I have written on this and the advice I have given and was I now a targer? Now I constantly check the tires, especially if am out late at night and weekly or more check tire pressure and general state of my vehicle. Air at gasoline stations in Costa Rica is free. So is water. And so is the advice here.