Traditional Spanish Scams

scams_in_spainMost people know a scam when they see one, but rather than look at sophisticated online theft, phishing and high-level Ponzi schemes we’ve decided to take a look at more traditional scams in Spain that are still being used today.

Scams have been around for many years and many people tend to think that it’s the victim’s own fault due to ignorance or greed. “La picaresca española”, the Spanish rogue culture, is often cited as a reason for these types of incidents. Many go unreported as the victim is often too embarrassed to report the event to the police. But if these scams are still being used in our modern digital world, somebody must be falling for them…

The Winning Lottery Ticket “El Tocomocho”

An old one, but a (not so) good one. The chosen victim will be approached by someone in the street who shows them a “winning” lottery ticket and tells a story about being unable to get the winnings. This person will sell his victim the winning ticket and will even accompany him or her to the cash machine in order to finalise the transaction there and then. Needless to say, the winning ticket isn’t worth anything.

This scam has now moved to the online area. Don’t pay any attention to emails telling you you’ve won the Spanish National Lottery and never send your bank details while you wait for the ticket to arrive in the post.

Find the Hidden Ball “Los Trileros”

Trileros often target foreigners with a game that consists of three upturned cups with a ball placed below one of them, the cups are moved around and to win you have to guess where the ball is. Sounds easy, right? In order to catch your attention, there are a couple of people who work with the trilero – when they play they win their bets, thereby enticing passers-by. Occasionally the trilero will let an outsider win a bet if the amount played is low, hoping in this way they’ll bet a higher amount and, of course, lose it.

Another way of playing this game is with three cards, but in both versions the trilero’s expertise and sleight of hand will ensure you always lose at the end.

The False Banknotes “El Timo de la Estampita”

For anyone who’s seen The Sting, they’ll recognise this scam. A person (called “the Fool”) who appears to be mentally impaired is carrying around an envelope full of banknotes but supposedly believes the notes to be something else. Another person (called “the Wise One”) will invite the victim to get the Fool to hand over the envelope in exchange for a small amount of cash. Once you’ve handed over the cash and been given the envelope, you’ll find it to be full of newspaper cuttings. Of course, the Fool and the Wise One will be far away by then.

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Newer Scams – The False Holiday Rental

We highlighted in our post about how to avoid holiday rental scams online and this year the Spanish news has been full of these types of cases. Whether for a short-term holiday rent, or long-term living, make sure you check everything out before handing over any money.

The Gas Maintenance Scam

Foreign and elderly residents in Spain have been targeted by false gas inspectors who charge high prices for maintenance checks (that aren’t carried out) and in some cases all they want is to access your home to see if there’s anything worth stealing. Gas inspections are always notified in writing and, if in doubt, tell the caller to return later whilst you phone the gas company. These scams are getting more sophisticated as false maintenance notifications are placed in letter boxes or at the entrance to housing communities, again all it takes is a phone call to ensure if a check-up is due.


Related Post: Top Tips When Renting In Spain