“You have a puncture”. Those fateful words that thousands of travellers have heard up and down the land from a seemingly helpful chap who subsequently steals your money and possessions

For those of you who have been living in a cave or are new to Spain there is an ongoing scam involving punctures to cars. Typically the sting takes place at motorway services or similar places where many drivers stop for a break on their way from the ferries. The charming fellow advises you that you have a puncture and offers to help. Whilst you are distracted he or his accomplices will steal your handbag, wallet or anything else that appears valuable from your car which you only notice when it is too late. Another twist is that a car will overtake you and either point out that something is wrong with your car so you pull over only to find yourself handing over your goodies. Sometimes the occupants of the other car will flash an official looking badge to ensure that you stop. The police do not do this as they are in marked cars and wear uniforms

The trap

So when the words are spoken I think, well you are no spring chicken Graham, have been in some shady places before, notably dockyards all over the world whilst serving in the navy and have read about this many times. Three or four handy looking blokes loitering in the background were also a bit of a clue; the old radar was truly doing overtime. This took place in Rojales a cosmopolitan town right next to the River Segura with many cars and people around

I thanked the kind gentleman for pointing this out to me and carried on walking away from my car. He repeated that I had a puncture which I surely did and he was once again thanked for his courtesy and kindness to a fellow human being. Now he got onto his hands and knees hugged the deflated tyre and pleaded with me to believe him. Blimey he was desperate. I went into an English run café for a drink and asked the proprietors if they had had any problem with this type of crime. “Never in five years” said the gaffer. His wife presumably trying to be helpful asked if the tyre was indeed lacking air; when I concurred she said not without some sarcasm “well that’s what he was trying to tell you then”. Mmm thanks

The sting

I called my colleague Leigh, explained what had happened so he joined me and replaced the wheel for the spare, whilst I kept an eye out for the bad guys who had seemingly disappeared; well he is much younger and stronger than me, so after watching Leigh labour in the burning sun, we went for a drink at the same café. Ten minutes later we walked the few metres back to the car to find that a side rear window had been smashed, the rear seat pulled down and my briefcase stolen from the boot. Utter devastation! My briefcase is my mobile office so always contains official documents.

If you are a potential customer of mine and wondering why I haven’t called back, then your information was probably lost too

The Policia Local turns up with blue lights and sirens on their scooters; I almost laughed. They took cursory information and packed me off to the Guardia Civil. Despite a search of the area the briefcase has not been found and is probably making interesting reading for the fishes

Car security

So let’s take a look at car security. Common sense is to always lock the car when you are not in it. Petrol stations are a favourite haunt of thieves as most people do not lock up when they go off to pay for petrol and tend to leave valuables on display such as handbags, mobile phones and satellite navigation systems. When you leave the car for any length of time, valuables should be put in the boot or a locked glove box.

Fair enough you may say, but they still got your case smarty pants. Talking to a Moroccan friend about the theft he gave me a very good tip learned from his homeland. Whenever you leave your car do not do so after putting items into the boot which could be valuable as the bad lads are watching for this and will surely break into the car as they did mine. This is what I had done, whereas what I should have done was driven off somewhere else for a coffee as upon arrival no one would have known what was in the boot

Vehicle theft

Car theft is also big business with many devises on the market to deter this, such as steering wheel security bars, clamps between the steering wheel and pedals, not forgetting wheel clamps, though I imagine these are a chore to keep putting on and off. A car alarm may have helped in my case, perhaps I should get one fitted. Other systems available trigger an alarm to a control point which contacts the owner to advise him that his car is on the move. High end cars are popular thefts, no worries for me there then, with many crossing boarders to be re-born. We once received a phone call from a chap in Marbella who asked if we would be interested in helping him legalise some cars. Er no.

Less valuable cars are stolen as they are often quite common so easily blend into the background, maybe with plates from a different car. As they tend to have less security they are popular with joy riders or lads who have missed the last bus home

Whatever you do to try and prevent car crime, the criminal will always find a way around it, just as they do when robbing your home; our best hope is to make it as difficult as possible so that they pick another target. Selfish? Not really just self preservation