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Beware of the petrol and rings roadside scam

Gareth Herincx / 17 November 2015 ( 23 November 2018 )

Police forces around the country are warning motorists not to fall for conmen operating on motorways and slip roads. Dozens of incidents have been reported and there’s a familiar pattern.

Scammer putting out a warning triangle to try to get motorists to pull over and help
The only times when it is acceptable to stop on a motorway is in the event of an accident or breakdown, or to provide assistance if an accident has occurred, providing it is safe to do so

How does the petrol and rings roadside scam work?

“Stranded” drivers, usually smartly dressed and parked on the hard shoulder, flag down passing motorists and ask for help.

The yarn they spin varies, but the essence is that they have run out of petrol and have no money to buy any more.

There’s often a sob story too. Some of the conman have claimed that one of their relatives has died and they need to get back home urgently.

Many offer to show some form of identification, often a bogus business card, with a promise to repay the money and they offer jewellery such as “gold” rings as security.

However, the rings are fake and valueless and the tricksters then flee with the cash, never to be seen again.

“Sadly, scammers will stop at nothing to convince us to part with our cash, and are concocting ever more emotive stories to lure motorists in,” said RAC spokesman Pete Williams.

“Motorists need to have their wits about them, and think very hard indeed before responding to another driver flagging them down.”

The bogus car insurance broker scam

What can you do to avoid being scammed?

The police advice is to be vigilant and to report any suspicious incidents, preferably with a description of the conman’s car and the registration number. 

If there is genuine concern for someone’s welfare, call the Emergency Services.

However, motorists are advised not to hand over any cash, no matter how persuasive someone may be.

If you do not want to speak directly to the police you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

You can also contact Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre on 0300 123 2040.

Have you heard about the 'crash for cash' scam? Find out more.

Is it legal to stop and help a motorist on a motorway?

“While motorists might be thinking they are doing a good deed by pulling over on a motorway, the fact is that doing this is against the law – and drivers are putting themselves at unnecessary risk,” explains the RAC’s Peter Williams.

“The only times when it is acceptable to stop on a motorway is in the event of an accident or breakdown, or to provide assistance if an accident has occurred, providing it is safe to do so.

“If you do pull over to help a motorist who appears stricken on other roads, proceed with caution. If you can safely avoid getting out of your car while offering help, do so as this will allow you to easily leave again if something doesn’t feel right.

“Finally, trust your instincts – if anything appears non-genuine, and certainly if someone is asking for money to complete a journey, calmly decline and drive off. Then when it’s safe to, stop and call the police to alert them.”

Avoid scams in supermarket car parks

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.