If You Find a Water Bottle on Your Car, Go to a Police Station

Danger might await you anywhere. Scammers are getting more sophisticated in their attempts to get closer to you and use their skills to scam you. They use strange things like envelopes in the car and other weird stuff on the hood to target everyone, regardless of their age and background. Let’s see how you can recognize the red flags and know what to do.

It’s late evening. You park your car in the supermarket lot, lock it, and go shopping. When you return, you see someone has wrapped a shirt around one of your windshield wipers. Don’t pause to get the piece of clothing off your windshield if this really happens to you. Instead, get into your car as quickly as possible and drive away. Find a well-lit spot, preferably with other people around, and only then stop and toss the shirt out.

It’s a relatively new trick criminal use to distract lonely drivers’ attention: the shirt or other sizable piece of cloth makes you stop and pull it off. While you’re doing this, they can sneak up on you, and who knows what happens then? If you have shopping bags on you, it’s best not to open your trunk either, as it also makes you vulnerable to prowlers and prevents you from acting fast. Toss the bags into the car and sort them out later when you’re safe.

What might be sending even more shivers down your spine is finding an envelope inside your car when you return to it. You definitely locked it, so someone was able to break in. First of all, remember basic security and drive off immediately. Then, best toss the envelope without opening it — there might be something nasty inside for all you know.

But suppose your curiosity took the upper hand, and you still opened it. In that case, you might find a message inside that says something like, “Dear Sir/Madam, we’ve tested your car’s security and found it unsatisfactory. As you can see, your car can easily be broken into. We expect you to pay us for this test, and in return, we’ll make sure to send someone to help you install a better security system.”

Well, it’s good they’ve taken nothing, so toss the envelope away and disregard the message. If you pay scammers, they’re likely to do it again or even try something worse. The best you can do is go to a trusted car service and check your security system on your own, or even replace the one you have if you’re not sure of its capabilities anymore.

A water bottle on your car’s hood is a sign you’re in grave danger. Like a clothing item on your windshield wipers, it’s meant to distract you and make you get out of the car, but this case is even worse. Even if you don’t go out to remove the bottle or any other relatively large and distracting object and drive home immediately, you might be up for something terrible.

The people who put the bottle on your car’s hood might’ve installed a GPS tracker on your car, so driving home puts you at risk of them following you there. You should either find a safe spot with many people around and check your car for the tracker or go straight to the nearest police station and ask them to do it for you.

When a stranger asks you to take a picture of them and gives you a phone, don’t be too quick to take it. Look at them first. If they look suspicious or unfriendly, it’s better to refuse the request nicely. This might be a fraud.

They give you the phone, you turn on the camera and see that it’s broken — the image in the photo is damaged. You give the stranger their phone back, and they accuse you of breaking the phone. They demand money and start making a scene.

In such a situation, it’s better not to panic and not to be provoked. Calmly leave. Make it clear that you won’t fall for this. And if they behave too aggressively, then call the police.

Thieves can put an advertising flyer, a newspaper, or a sticker on your house or apartment door. You can find a piece of paper or a thin strip from a plastic bottle in the doorway. If you don’t remove one of these items for a long time, then the thieves understand that you’re not at home. This way, thieves mark buildings and apartments that are easy to get into.

After all, getting into an empty apartment is much safer. So, as soon as you see a foreign object, immediately get rid of it. If a flyer or bookmark hangs on the door for one or two days, it tells the thief that no one’s home. Of course, these can be real advertising stickers, but you still don’t need them.

In addition to flyers, there may be strange labels on the house or apartment door — numbers, crosses, or other symbols. It is how burglars mark houses they’re about to break into. If you see such a sign, it’s better to call the police.

You’re driving home from work and suddenly notice you’re almost out of gas. That’s weird because you recently filled a full tank. You go to the gas station and to the car repair center to check if there is a gas leak in the vehicle.

Meanwhile, robbers can take things out of your house. They deliberately drained the fuel from your car so that you’d go to the gas station. They detain you and buy time to clean out your home. If you’re sure that you refueled recently and the gas was drained from you, you should call your neighbors and ask them to monitor your house or apartment.

Burglars might stage some accident to lure you out of your house. Please don’t fall for it! If there is actually some accident, it’s always better to call 911. Also, beware of weird calls when someone calls you and keeps silent. If they started bothering you quite often, it could be a sign that your house is now a burglar’s target, and they want to check if you’re home.

Always make sure that the taxi meter is working when you get into a cab. If you take a seat and the driver tells you the meter is broken, you better get out at once and call another car. You could get charged much more than the regular fee without the meter, especially if you’re not a local.

Your car’s broken down in the middle of an interstate, so you call a towing service. But in less than five minutes, a tow truck stops by, and the driver offers you help. It’s best to reject the offer politely — granted, you’ll have to wait longer, but at least you won’t be overcharged.

There are towing companies that take advantage of unfortunate drivers stranded in the middle of nowhere. This kind stranger might take your car prisoner until you pay double the regular charge. If you’re not sure the tow truck that’s arrived at your help is the one you called for, call the service again and ask for the number on the license plate.

When you choose a parking spot, it’s best to avoid those next to larger vehicles than yours. They block your line of sight, and you can quickly become the target for someone with bad intentions hiding behind the van or truck next to your car.

When someone calls you and says they’re representing your bank, be aware that bank employees will never ask you for your account information, including your PIN or a one-time code sent to your phone. If someone asks you that, best hang up and call the bank on your own — just use the number on its website.

Paying with your bank card or through an e-wallet via a trusted service is the only safe way to pay online. If a company asks you specifically to pay in an unusual way, such as a gift card, a voucher, or a transfer to another bank card through your online banking app, mark it as a huge red flag for scammers. A real company wouldn’t make you do that, and they’ll also provide you with an electronic check afterward.


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