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You don't want to spend your holiday with a target on your back – or even a big sign on your car that says, "Tourist." Unfortunately, for holidaymakers who drive hire cars or have British number plates, they are increasingly becoming a target for unscrupulous con men. Thieves can easily identify those who are new in town and likely to be carrying expensive cameras, laptops and passports. Rich pickings and helpfully flagged up by the car number plates, or car hire company sticker in the window.

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Date: 18/11/2012

Robbers target tourists with hire cars or British number plates

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You don't want to spend your holiday with a target on your back – or even a big sign on your car that says, "Tourist." Unfortunately, for holidaymakers who drive hire cars or have British number plates, they are increasingly becoming a target for unscrupulous con men. Thieves can easily identify those who are new in town and likely to be carrying expensive cameras, laptops and passports. Rich pickings and helpfully flagged up by the car number plates, or car hire company sticker in the window. As Europe slips into economic decline, these opportunistic crimes are becoming a headache for local police. Here are some useful pointers to avoid being stung by unwelcome pests while you're on holiday.

Distraction is the way most highway robberies occur. Be vigilant when driving. If you hear a loud noise and there is a car close by, it may be that a stone has been thrown. The aim is to get you to pull over, in order for you to be distracted and robbed. This is a particularly common technique employed by thieves in Spain, with a 10% rise in roadway robberies reported by the British Embassy. If you think you've been involved in a collision and pull over, make sure you lock all your doors on exiting the car and keep watch on both sides of the vehicle.

Another distraction technique is to approach tired and hungry travellers who have stopped at service stations. While one gang member engages you in small talk as you stand by your open boot eating a sandwich, his accomplice is rifling bags in the front seats. It is happening time and time again and it seems that thieves are getting quicker and more efficient. You can make their job harder by ensuring you don't leave valuables in your car. It sounds like common sense, but it's surprising how many people ignore the advice. When sightseeing, carry your expensive gadgets and passports with you at all times. Leaving items in the glove box is just not sensible, as they are in no way secure. A thief will break into a regular glove box in seconds.

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Don't ever leave valuables on view in the car, even if you cover them with a coat. Thieves are not stupid. They know how you think. If you don't want to lug your lap top round with you when you're sightseeing, don't take it. If the worst does happen then you'll kick yourself for not having checked out that cheap travel insurance offer you ignored before you left. The promise of a brand new replacement laptop does ease the pain of having your own stolen. Make sure you back up data before you leave for holidays and download photos from your camera's memory. With these sensible steps in place you can at least minimise some of the trauma of holiday thefts.


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