Knowledge, caution help defeat scammers on European roads

By U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs
Nov. 8, 2010

HEIDELBERG, Germany -- U.S. forces members in Europe may be used to traveling in the countries in which they live, but what about driving in other, more unfamiliar European countries?

“Go and get the antiterrorism/force protection brief for the country you will be traveling in,” advised Lt. Col. Lon Walker, deputy provost marshal for U.S. Army Europe.

Walker said the briefing explains which countries have extra road safety rules, such as requiring drivers to use headlights during daylight hours or enforcing a zero-tolerance for drinking and driving. In addition, OPM officials say, some countries are more prone to crime and scams than others.

One new trend in some countries is for a driver to flash his lights in an attempt to get another driver to pull over. Walker said that if the driver believes the vehicle is not an unmarked police car that it’s probably best to wait until reaching a busy rest stop or border crossing before stopping.

“If you are traveling in an unfamiliar country and think an unmarked police car is trying to stop you, my advice is to put on your emergency lights but not stop until you arrive at a crowded rest stop or police station,” Walker said. After stopping, lock the doors, stay inside the vehicle and ask the officers for identification, he added.

Drivers who attempt to stop others on the highway in this fashion are usually scammers, OPM officials said. They may try to sell their victims “gold” jewelry such as rings or chains that are in fact brass imitations, or claim to have run out of money and offer to sell apparently expensive goods – often jackets or coats -- at a huge discount so they can buy gas to get home. Unfortunately, the articles with fancy brand names turn out to be cheap fakes.

Walker recommends that victims report incidents like these to local or border police immediately, and to their local Provost Marshal Office when they return to home station. He strongly suggested that victims write down the fraudsters’ license plate numbers so police can investigate later.

More information and security tips are available from garrison Provost Marshal Offices, at the USAREUR vigilance web site, or by downloading the U.S. State Department pamphlet “Personal Security--At Home, On the Street, While Traveling.”