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These days, I was driving on the D11 in Czechia in the early evening hours. Shortly before Prague, I had stopped at a service area. Not too long after I had pulled out and was back on the motorway, I noticed the car behind me flashing its headlights at me and gesturing at me to pull over. The car had UK plates; I was driving my own car, also with foreign plates. Both cars are medium-sized passenger cars, European premium brands, around 10 years old.

I remembered hearing about similar scams in other parts of the world, where people will stop passing cars, claiming there is something wrong with the car or, alternatively, that they need help, and then rob the driver or steal the car.

With this in mind, I pulled over and opened a window but left the transmission in drive and the engine running. The driver of the other car got out, showed me a business card, asked if I spoke English and then explained in accented English (he claimed to be Arab) that he was having “petrol problems” with his car and was traveling with his wife and baby, and asked if I could help him.

At that point I decided the whole thing was getting too fishy and I drove off.

What raised my suspicion was:

  • He claimed “petrol problems” (running out of fuel?) although we had just passed a gas station less than 2 km before. I would imagine that it would have been much easier for him to stop there and ask for help.
  • In the unlikely event that something were to have happened on the short stretch of road after the service area, there are still emergency phones along the highway, which he could have used.
  • Why would he flag down a car with foreign plates instead of a local one, whose driver would be more likely able to help him (e.g. speaking the local language, knowing where to get help)? Whereas I would expect scammers to be more likely to target foreigners (more valuables in the car, less savvy driver).

How likely is it that this was a scam attempt? Does this resemble any well-known scams—and if so, are they known to have occurred around Prague before? Or is there any good reason why this behavior could be legitimate and innocuous?

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    I don't see how this is answerable. We know nothing about the individual who flagged you down. We can talk about likelihood and frequency of such scams, but they will tell you nothing about your individual case. – DJClayworth Aug 29 '17 at 13:08
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    @DJClayworth A possible answer might include if such scams are known to have happened around Prague, or if there are other reasons this should have raised a red flag—or a good reason why this behavior could be legitimate and innocuous. I’m specifically not asking “was this guy a scammer” but I’d like to know how likely it is that he was. – user149408 Aug 29 '17 at 13:40
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    "Why would he flag down a car with foreign plates instead of a local one" Maybe because there's a better chance the driver would speak English? Not every Czech driver does. – svick Aug 29 '17 at 13:54
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    @svick Before cell phones became widespread, emergency phones were the only way to get road assistance, as in the case of a broken-down car. From my personal experience I can recall three instances in which we used an emergency telephone for that purpose. – user149408 Aug 29 '17 at 14:41
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    You're lucky you didn't get robbed. Next time avoid stopping and press on the gas. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Aug 29 '17 at 15:13