Police alert over breakdown scam on drivers in south-west France

Fraudsters offer ‘worthless’ jewellery for cash. Scam has been reported in several areas and particularly in the Dordogne

Fraudsters claim their car has broken down – but this is not the case
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Drivers in south-west France are being warned of a scam in which a ‘distressed’ family in a broken-down car offers to exchange valuable jewellery for money to repair their vehicle.

The jewellery, however, is worthless, leaving victims out of pocket when they try to sell it.

Dubbed the panne bulgare (Bulgarian breakdown) due to most cars involved having Bulgarian number plates, the scam has been reported in a number of areas in the south-west, particularly in the Dordogne.

The official Facebook page of the department’s gendarmes shared a post highlighting the fraudulent behaviour.

Police recommend anyone who comes into contact with the scam leaves immediately and calls 17 (the emergency number for the police) to report the situation.

How does it work?

Unwitting drivers are signalled over by a distressed-looking motorist, who says their car has broken down and that they need to go to a service station for help.

They are often accompanied by a woman and child (claiming to be their family) also looking distressed, increasing the chances of tugging on victims’ heartstrings.

Once you have pulled over, the driver explains their situation and asks you to take them to a nearby service station.

Saying they have no money or bank card to pay for help, they instead offer jewellery in exchange for some cash you either have on hand or can take out from a nearby ATM.

The jewellery is “worthless” however, leaving the drivers out of pocket.

Police warn drivers

The gendarmes warned that many people are taken in by the scam both due to the presence of the young family and the “reasonable” requests of the fraudsters.

They usually only ask for “between €50 and €100,” much lower than other comparable recent scams on the road that have seen drivers fleeced out of hundreds of euros.

Read more: Drivers tell how they fell victim to fuel station scammers in France

It is not the first time a scam of this kind has hit the south-west.

The so-called ‘Irish scam’, which involved a family speaking perfect English asking for money from drivers, claiming they had been robbed and needed help getting back home to the UK.

The scam was popular in the years before Covid.

Have you been a victim of a scam on the roads? Or has somebody attempted a scam on you but you avoided it? Let us know over at news@connexionfrance.com.

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