U.S. Army Europe Office of the Provost Marshal
This summer, Army law enforcement officials expect to see cases of swindlers trying to defraud Americans traveling in Europe.
“One popular scam involves someone flagging down vehicles to get money by falsely claiming they need help,” said Joseph Day, law enforcement chief at the U.S. Army Europe Office of the Provost Marshal in Wiesbaden. This approach often happens close to a barracks gate, at a highway rest stop or on a road outside of town where motorists must drive slowly.
Often the scammers entice large sums from their victims by offering them gold jewelry as collateral claiming they will pay the money back later. Unfortunately the rings and chains that change hands turn out to be worthless brass imitations.
A variation of this scam involves beggars who give passers-by a “gold” ring stating that the ring no longer fits. If someone accepts the gift, the man or woman then begs for money and can become quite aggressive if the ring recipient does not want to part with any money. Again, the supposed gold ring is really made of brass.
Another swindle involves someone in a car claiming to have run out of money at a trade fair and offering to sell you fancy brand name goods, often jackets or coats, at huge discounts so they can buy gas to get home. However, the chic attire turns out to be a cheap polyester imitation.
Police in Germany also report a relatively new scam in which false plain clothes police officers target people in tourist areas and claim to be checking wallets and purses for counterfeit bills. The fake officers produce imitation credentials, “check” the currency but do not find any violations. Only later do the victims realize that many of the high-value bills are missing.
Day recommends you keep these tips in mind:
• Offers too good to be true usually are.
• Beware of distractions if you are in your car alone. Someone talking to you on the driver’s side of the car could be trying to divert your attention while a buddy steals your purse or wallet from the other side.
• Always consider the relation between the trouble someone claims they are in and what they are asking for. People in real need rarely ask for more than what is absolutely necessary.
• Never give large amounts of money to anyone on the road. The most anyone should need is enough to fill a tank full of gas.
Day advises anyone who has been approached in any of these ways to write down any car license plate number and contact the nearest military or host nation police station.