Motorway Robberies

Press release: Watch out on the AP7 – British Consulate in Alicante warns of motorway robberies
23rd July 2012

British holidaymakers taking their cars to Spain this summer are being warned of the threat from motorway thieves who rob foreign-registered vehicles and hire cars of their possessions, passports and money.

British-registered cars using motorways in Spain are proving an easy target for gangs who use a wide variety of scams to distract unsuspecting holidaymakers and then steal their bags and belongings from their vehicles.

The worst blackspot is the AP7 motorway between the French border and the Alicante region in southern Spain. More than 60 cases of robbery on this motorway were reported to the British Consulate in Alicante last year, and so far this year the number of reported cases is increasing.

It is believed that there are hundreds more cases of thieves using distraction scams to rob British motorists across Spain that go unreported to Foreign Office staff because victims generally only contact a British Consulate if their passport has been taken.

Foreign motorists are tricked by loud bangs, apparent accidents or vehicle problems, supposedly punctured tyres and pretend requests for help in motorway service areas.

“We are warning drivers of UK-registered cars and hire cars to be on the alert on motorways in Spain, both while driving and taking a break”, says Paul Rodwell, British Consul in Alicante. “We also hope that Brits living in Spain will help us to get the message out to any friends and family who may drive to Spain this summer for visits.

“The most important thing is to on your guard against anyone who attempts to stop you or ask you for help – they may well be part of a gang operating a scam in which an unseen accomplice will rob you of your things.”

The Consulates in Barcelona and Alicante have jointly designed a leaflet called Driving safely and avoiding roadside scams in Spain that can be downloaded from UKinSpain travel advice webpage. It provides useful advice that will help drivers to plan their journeys, stay safe and avoid common problems.

Stephen and Helen Robinson from Leicestershire were between Barcelona and Valencia when they stopped at a service area to exercise their dog. Both were at the boot of the car when they were distracted by a man apparently on the phone, asking them how to say something in English. Meanwhile their bag was taken from the front, despite the dog being inside.

“It was quick and slick”, says Mrs Robinson. “Remember that on the second day of driving down from the UK, you may be more tired and therefore more vulnerable. Separate your valuables into different places in the car, and when you stop be aware you may be being watched. You won’t see the accomplice of the person who is distracting you.”

In another robbery, Joy and Alan Horton from Suffolk were aware of a vehicle close to them on the motorway, then heard a loud bang and pulled over. The other car stopped in front of them and while the driver talked animatedly to them, his passenger accomplice grabbed their belongings unseen.

“Keep all jackets, bags and valuables in a locked boot and not on the back seat where they can be seen”, says Mr Horton. “If you think your car may have been in a collision and you pull over, lock the car as soon as you get out and mount a guard on both sides of the vehicle.”

Victims of crime should report the incident to the police. Britons can also go to the UKinSpain website for advice if you are a victim of crime, or contact the local British Consulate via 902 109 356 for an emergency travel document or other assistance.