In a Palma bar at the weekend a tourist told me how he’d been robbed by two young men. They were apparently well dressed and polite and had stopped him to ask for directions. While one of them distracted him with a map, the other stole his wallet without him even noticing. It was only when they hurriedly thanked him and sauntered up the street that he realised his wallet had gone and that he’d been duped.
As summer approaches such first hand experiences should act as cautionary tales for trusting holidaymakers. Aside from pickpockets on the street, it is well known in Majorca that many tourists are targeted as soon as they arrive at Palma airport, especially those booking hire cars. When drivers stop at large supermarkets en route to their holiday villas, they are often relieved of their valuables through various scams. A gang member will usually approach the occupants of the vehicle as they enter the car park and claim that a back wheel’s been damaged. In reality one of the thieves has surreptitiously pierced the tyre and while the driver and passengers inspect the damage, other accomplices rob the car of its contents. Last year a German family had all their money, computers and mobile phones taken in this way.
Of course there are multiple ways thieves hoodwink tourists and so it’s critical to be vigilant- and streetwise- at all times. On the other hand, it’s equally important not to rush to conclusions as I did the other day when four young men politely approached me in Palma holding a map and asking for the cathedral. I almost hollered, ‘Come on guys, you can do better than this!’ As it turned out, they didn’t attempt to snatch my handbag because they were the real deal. They were on a religious tour of catholic churches and enthusiastically showed me some of their holy purchases.
Aside from much documented supermarket scams and the dangers of carteristas picking your pockets, it also pays never to leave valuables including passports in hire cars-even in the boot. A familiar ruse is to rob vehicles left in car parks while the occupants set off for a day’s sunbathing, hiking or sightseeing. Beachgoers of course offer rich pickings when they take a swim and helpfully leave their valuables in bags on the sand.
A friend in Barcelona assures me that it’s far worse there. So bad is the situation that there’s even a popular ‘Robbed in Barcelona’ website offering tips, crime news and reader feedback. One of the most popular places for pick pocketing is apparently Barcelona’s Metro so I suppose we should be grateful in Majorca that we don’t have one. In fact one courageous vigilante, Colombian Eliana Guerrero, patrols the Barcelona Metro as a hobby, blowing a whistle if she sees a theft in progress, to alert both victim and passengers. She’s allegedly foiled several robberies to date.
So this summer let’s hope visitors to Spain will keep their eyes and ears open and not give thieves the pleasure of robbing them blind. As they say, a fool and his money are soon parted and there’s no glory in returning home empty handed.
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