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beware of robbed in Milan

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Jul 31st, 2007, 10:56 AM
  #1
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beware of robbed in Milan

Thieves and robbery are not uncommon in Italy. But we were the victims of a very sophisticatedly organized robbery which I did not read anywhere before.

This happened in the afternoon of July 29, 2007 in the center of Milan:

First, person A pierced our tire with a knife while we were driving. Then, person B (probably the same as A) on scooter passed by and notified us (we heard noise of wheel but we thought it's because the trolley tracks we were driving on). I pulled our car to next roundabout and found a place to park (in front of a building entry). When we were replacing the tire, person C appeared and shouted at us - "no parking", pointed to a sign and pretended calling police. When our attentions were attracted to person C, person D snapped our bag (which was on the floor of the passenger's seat). We lost passports, cash, and 2 cameras.

I don't know why we were picked. We just returned from Nice (a non-stop drive) and our windows were closed.

At US consulate, we learned that this scheme is pretty common. Milan is not safe. Be aware.
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Jul 31st, 2007, 11:02 AM
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A couple of comments.

You have broken several of the cardinal rules of travel:

Do;t leave you belongings sitting unattended

Keep your car locked at all times

Don;t believe strangers who come along and try to get you involvd in something (who cares if they call the police - you're fixing a tire - do you actually thnk the police will arrest you?)

Be suspicious as soon as people start volunteering informationa and instructions about somethig that has nothing to do with them

It's not that Milan is especially dangerous. It's that you have to keep your wits about you at all times - every where in the world except your own backyard.
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Jul 31st, 2007, 11:11 AM
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If I have read this before, I could better recognize the scheme. That's the purpose of my posting.

Between the tire is pierced and I stopped the car, I drove several blocks and the gang were following me meticulously. They are so organized I wonder what could happen if they failed to get any valuables from us.
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Jul 31st, 2007, 11:19 AM
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I'd hardly call leaving your belongings on the floor of the passengers side of the car you're working on unattended.

Wow, what a story hx88. Sorry that happened. Glad you're ok though.
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Jul 31st, 2007, 11:25 AM
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<<< I'd hardly call leaving your belongings on the floor of the passengers side of the car you're working on unattended. >>>

I would, the bag is going to be several feet away on the other side of the car where it will be totally invisible to you

as for it being new - http://www.britishembassy.gov.uk/ser...=1150453932031
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Jul 31st, 2007, 11:29 AM
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BTW, we never saw person A and D. We did not know we lost our bag until we were ready to leave the scene. The sequence of events were linked together afterwards.

The car rental company confirmed the tear was pierced intenationally with a knife. Second I saw B, an innocent looking man, around the corner at some distance when I was working on the tire. Third, I did remind my family to look after our belongings when I was working on the tire.

To me, this just sounds like unavoidable. If they did not get what they want, we might be in a more dangerous situation.
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Jul 31st, 2007, 11:32 AM
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Thank you hx88 for posting this. Another example of the fact that one cannot be too cautious -- even in your own backyard, by the way.
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Jul 31st, 2007, 11:32 AM
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Talk about scolding the victim. Even sophisticated travelers can let down their guard, particulary when confronted with a flat tire in a foreign country and people shouting at you in another language. Truth is you are more likely to be scammed/taken advantage of in some places than in others. And Italy falls into the former category. What a shame.......
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Jul 31st, 2007, 11:35 AM
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What do you do in a situation like this? Do you report it to the police right away? Do you pull over in a different location, lock your car and make sure every one is out of the car standing watch?
Thanks so much for warning us.
It is something to think about were ever one is traveling (even one's own neighborhood).
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Jul 31st, 2007, 11:38 AM
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I was scammed and ripped off at Milan airport four years ago. I consider myself a sophisticated traveller and have travelled extensively - solo and otherwise - for many years for business and pleasure.

I was waiting with our bags while my partner returned our Hertz car. An older man walked past me and suddenly clutched his chest and was on his knees, apparently in pain.

I immediately reacted and went to help. Someone came up behind me and snatched my handbag and overnight bag. Passports and money were gone.

The police were incredibly unhelpful and they said we were the 6th "incident" that day alone.

It is a shame that one has to hesitate to help someone because they might be mugged like this
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Jul 31st, 2007, 11:43 AM
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Police is no help. We met two groups of police at the scene but none of them were helpful. They asked us to go to police station w/o giving us detailed driving directions, not mentioning accompanying us.

Finally, after setting the kids into hotel, after midnight, we went to a place (civic claim?) close to US consulate to file a report. The report is useful in getting extention from airline for our return flights (we were scheduled to fly back 7/30).

BTW, if the Milan government or the police is interested to stop this, they could review the security cameras and identify the gangs.

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Jul 31st, 2007, 02:38 PM
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Friends of ours who were long-time visitors to Milan swore never to return after a guy on a motorbike smashed in the passenger window, grabbed the wife's handbag, and broke her wrist in the process.
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Jul 31st, 2007, 02:46 PM
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hx88, I am so sorry you had such a terrible experience. I can see myself handling things just as you did and getting robbed in the process. I would have my camera by my feet in the car, would not expect the tire puncture was sabotage and would expect bystanders to be helpful not lurking thieves. Thank you for your warning. Deborah
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Jul 31st, 2007, 03:04 PM
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Sorry hx88, that is just awful! I am glad that you and your family are okay.
Thank you for warning us.
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Jul 31st, 2007, 03:30 PM
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hx88, so sorry to hear of your unfortunate incident. We had an incident in Rome a few years ago on the train with gypsy kids. An older women took her time getting on the train and my DH and i were one of the ones that had to stand and hold onto the upper bar. The kids ( i'm talking about 5-6yo) were bumping against us and looking at us with those sweet faces . Of course those sweet faces were a distraction because during all the jostling our fanny pack ( worn in front) was gone . Not the pack it
self but the contents----$, passports, train tickets, return plane tickets. We spent an extra night so we could get a passport. The police were not much help, and the consulate not much better. We only had a credit card (my husbands wallet was in his front pocket) and they WOULDN"T take a cc. Afterwards of course we were told this happens all the time.
I don't know how they pick targets but it feels like crap when it happens to you!

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Jul 31st, 2007, 03:33 PM
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unfortunately this is an all too common scam in spain, too.

there is no excuse,and it is downright hopeless to expect the police to do much, as you have seen.

they are overwhelmed with so many robberies and quite disgruntled at the lax judical system that doesn´t do much to these petty thieves ( under 3,000 euros)until they actually severely HARM someone.

it is very frustrating and i dare say that whatever politican or political party promises to push new laws quickly through the system to put these b.....s away will win the next elections across the continent.
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Jul 31st, 2007, 03:35 PM
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Thank you for posting, hx88
I'm glad no one in your family suffered physical harm and applaud you for mentioning your experience here as a warning. This could have happened to anyone, no matter how "sophisticated". I'm sorry it was you.
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Jul 31st, 2007, 06:07 PM
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I hate to break it to you but for quite a while this kind of scam was also quite common in FL - where there are masses of tourists renting cars and not really knowing exactly where they're going. They were motioned over by someone who said they had a flat tire and were robbed- and several were even murdered.

This received so much publicity at the time that I can;t image there is anyone who didn;t hear about it. Florida police requie all rental car companies to hand out info on not stopping along the road for any reason - but driving until you reach a safe area.

As to what to do. If in the same situation I would have continued to drive the car (who cares about the tires) until I got to a major hotel or police station or ??? At that point the miscreants would have left.

They count on your being so flustered by the flat tire that you don;t think logicially.

To be safe - you MUST think logically - and not let yourself be flustered by something like this.

(Frankly - if in the US - anywhere - I would stop only if on a major highway with a lot of traffic - and call for help immediately. And not get out of the car. If in an area that didn;t have a lot of traffic - just keep driving until you reach a safe area. Tires and even wheels can be easily replaced - passports, credit cards etc can;t - never mind your life.)
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Jul 31st, 2007, 07:00 PM
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NYtraveler, I just rented a car two weeks ago in Ft lauderdale and there was no mention of scams and not pulling over.
I don't think the OP was not being smart, I think they were distracted by what happened and that is how the thief gets you.
Thanks HX88 for telling the story. We are going to Europe next summer and one place I want to go to is Barcelona. Friends of ours just returned and their family was pickpocketed twice in one week. (The same guy). It is disheartening to think that you have to hide everything. I have never felt afraid in NY city but that is probably because I am familiar with it and know where to stay away from (at least I used when I lived up there.)
Sorry this happened to you.
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Jul 31st, 2007, 07:08 PM
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Very sorry. We had bad experience in Milan...too long to get into this, but once had a fender bender in South Africa. All of a sudden, there are no fewer than 4 towing companies each claiming to be legit. If it hadn't been for the kindness of an amazing S African woman with a phone and a good head, no telling what would have happened. It can happen anywhere, any time. Thank you for the heads up. We also arrive at locations tired and jet lagged and the criminals know this.
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