Last updateFri, 20 Nov 2020 11am

Old scams never die

The popular Plaza Galerias area in the western fringes of Guadalajara, with its adjacent Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Costco and myriad stores and restaurants, continues to be a favored site for elaborately choreographed petty crimes. Despite reports in the Guadalajara Reporter and other media exposing them over the years, these rip-offs live on and claim new victims, some of them middle-aged and elderly foreigners.

One example is the old mustard scam. Last week, an American woman who uses a cane was in a fast food restaurant in the Plaza Galerias waiting for staff to arrive with her order. Her open handbag was on the floor and her husband was in the bathroom, when a woman approached claiming there was mustard on the American’s clothes and touching her body where the “stains” were. Offended and distracted by this touching, the American didn’t notice until after the woman and her apparent accomplice had gone, that her wallet was gone too.

The same ruse has frequently been used in the Wal-Mart parking lot, where the con artists squirt mustard on the backs of unsuspecting shoppers and then offer to help the victim, saying their clothes are covered with “bird poop.”

Another ruse for robbery that involves punctured tires in and around the huge parking lots of these shopping centers continues to be reported in local media.

Typically, a team of clandestine criminals surveys the parking lot for a likely victim, then damages her tire and lies in wait until the shopper returns, drives away and pulls to the side of one of the busy roads a short distance away. The criminals have been following in a car. They offer to “help” the victim, who leaves her car door unlocked as she inspects the tire, whereupon an accomplice snatches valuables from inside the car and makes off.

Strategies for avoiding these crimes are carrying keys and wallets in clothes pockets near the body instead of in handbags and, naturally, being wary of strangers.

Shopping center authorities must be aware of these ongoing scams but seem unwilling or unable to take countermeasures such as patrolling the parking lots, leaving some shoppers to suffer a big cramp in their Christmas cheer.

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