Attention!! Arnaque !!
Summer is a great time to be in the P-O but it does also seem to bring out ill-intentioned people trying to ‘arnaquer’ (take advantage of) others.
The latest ‘arnaque’ doing the rounds is the controversially-named ‘arnaque à l’irlandaise’ (Irish scam). We have included the name so that you know what you’re reading in the French press, but we’re going to rename it the ‘service station scam’, for obvious reasons.
How it goes
Typically, somebody with very good English comes up to you at an aire (service station) to tell you that they have been robbed.
They obviously act the part of the panicked, haggard victim, usually pointing out their “poor stranded family”, who are usually well-dressed and presentable… adding to the realism.
Gendarmes have even seen cases where the scammers present “proof” of the theft, including car registration papers in the UK or Ireland.
The family begs you to lend them some cash, enough to get home (usually a few hundred euros), promising to pay you back when they get home.
To show their good faith, these crooks will give you a telephone number that they will ring in front of you to “prove” that it is their personal number and/or sign an IOU.
Do not be fooled: you will never be reimbursed.
Obviously the service station scam comes in lots of different versions but each time the scenarios are well-established, professionally portrayed and very believable.
If you are approached in the same or a similar situation, contact the local police or gendarmerie (17) straight away.
If the family has indeed been a victim of theft, the authorities will be able to assist them. If they are crooks, the presence of a police patrol should discourage them.