Car park con man could be in North Devon


- Credit: Archant

Drivers warned to beware of ‘Spaniards bearing gifts’ after petrol money scam is tried in the area.

A RETIRED Metropolitan police officer has warned people in the Braunton and North Devon area to beware of a particularly ‘generous’ fraudster.

The foreign-sounding gentleman pulls up beside a vehicle in a car park or picnic area, thrusts ‘gifts’ of expensive appearing watches and perfume into the victim’s hands and then asks for petrol money so he can ‘get home to Spain’.

It happened to Arthur Yates and a friend at the car park of Trelawney Garden Centre on Wednesday, but as a former police constable with the Met, Mr Yates had heard it all before.

He said the ‘gifts’ are almost worthless, but people think they have a bargain and hand over some cash.

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“He presses the stuff on you – it’s all very new and in lovely boxes, but probably only cost him a few pounds. He says he’s Spanish, needs to get back to Spain but has run out of money and can you give him some for petrol,” said Mr Yates.

“He was quite good and plausible. Petrol is expensive, so what is the minimum someone might give him, £30? They do it because they think they are getting more than £30 worth of goods.”

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Mr Yates said the man was aged around 45-50, wearing a white long sleeved coat such as delivery drivers wear. He was driving a small red hatchback car with dirt obscuring the number plate, which he claimed was a hire car.

“Having dealt with and arrested so many of these types, I know he has only got to catch four or five people a day and he is making good money,” Mr Yates added.

The former police constable, who was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal during his career, said his patch in West London had included motorway service areas where such scams were common, but might be unfamiliar to people in North Devon.

A police spokesman said the public should be careful when being approached by people in such circumstances and take care not to be parted with their money. If anyone has any doubts about such an incident they should report it to police by dialling 101.

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