My first post! I listened in astonishment yesterday as a friend described his family's experience with his family in Paris last month and suggested to him that he should post on the Rick Steves Travel Forum. I explained how useful it had been for my husband & me to read of various common pickpocketing scams in Rick's books. (The one that comes to mind was being asked for help by someone who is hard of hearing -- once distracted, a second person picks your pocket). We were no longer vulnerable to this scam and were able to recognize it at once when we were approached in exactly that way near Notre Dam in Paris.
My friend is a frequent traveler to Paris, yet on this visit he and his wife and daughter were totally unaware of the possibility of a tourist scam when a guy on a scooter signaled to the passenger side adult (my friend's wife), pointing to the back tire, and later explaining that the back tire was flat. My friend pulled the rental car to the curb and got out to talk with the "good samaritan," who was already on the ground examining the tire and saying he had a patch kit! While my friend and his family were distracted by all of this, a second thief entered the car on the driver's side and stole all their bags which had been inside the car.
The next thing that happened was that three plain clothed Paris policemen jumped on the scooter/tire helper person and put him in handcuffs! My friends were very lucky and did not lose any property. They had nothing but praise to offer for the police and their quick actions.
Lastly -- I did a search on this topic and saw a similar scenario described in Italy in October of 2017. Scrolling down through all the comments, it seemed that the majority of respondents distrusted or disliked the story! I myself have often traveled to Italy and have never had any problems, but I can still believe that this story happened and think it is important to spread the word so that people had be forewarned of the possibility of such scams. To close, I will copy the post on this forum from 10-17:
BEWARE! Car rental scam in Italy
Jump to bottom Posted by mojopdx on 10/19/17 09:37 PM
BEWARE! This is a common scam in Italy. First, all rental cars in Italy are marked with a neon yellow sticker on the gas cap cover that announces to the world that you're a tourist. So here's the scam: Man # 1 comes up behind you on a bike or scooter & slashes your rear tire, then acts "helpful" & tells you the tire is flat. You pull over & he stays with you. Tells you it isn't safe, you can't park here, you have to go to the "garage" nearby. DON'T do it. They take you to an isolated area where they rob you at gun point. We refused & started trying to fix the tire ourselves with the inflation kit. Then Man # 2 comes along to be "helpful" & also tries to get you to go to the "garage." In the meantime, they're casing the car & your belongings. At some point, they'll distract you & steal what they can. In our case, they got my husband's travel pouch with passport & credit card. The Enterprise folks all say this is happening to many tourists, yet they never warned us when we rented the car. The US Consulate says this is the # 2 scam against tourists right now in Italy. So be forewarned! & drive safe out there. BTW, there's a US Consulate in Milan if you need another passport.