Autovia del Mediterraneo near Nerja, Spain. PA
Crime gangs are targeting British tourists on holiday in Spain, the Foreign Office has warned.
Holidaymakers with British-registered vehicles or hire cars have had their passports, money and possessions stolen in quick distraction muggings, the Daily Mail reported.
The thieves use loud noises, fake accidents and supposed pleas for help with vehicle problems to trick their victims before stealing belongings from their cars.
The Foreign Office is warning the millions of tourists heading to Spain for their summer holidays that British-registered cars are an 'easy target' for the criminals.
Since the euro crisis, the number of British tourists on Spanish roads has soared and the British Embassy in Madrid reported a 10 per cent increase in the first quarter of 2012, which is likely to rise as the peak holiday season commences.
An embassy spokesman told the Daily Mail: 'Motorists may be driving along the motorway and not notice there's a car close up behind.
'Someone in the other car throws a stone at their vehicle which creates a loud bang. The British drivers pull over to see what has happened and the gang is behind them.
'They cause a distraction to steal from them or simply mug them. It's a growing problem.'
The AP7 motorway between the French border and the Alicante region in southern Spain is a hotspot with more than 140 cases of theft reported to British consulates along the route last year.
A consular spokesman said it was likely there were 'hundreds more' attacks across Spain that were going unreported as victims only usually contact the consulate if they have lost their passport.
'Be on your guard against anyone who attempts to stop you or ask you for help,' advised consular regional director for Spain, Dave Thomas.
'They may well be part of a gang operating a scam in which an unseen accomplice will rob you of your things.'
Stephen and Helen Robinson, from Leicestershire, had their bags stolen from their Audi Q5 as they stopped to walk their dog at a service station between Barcelona and Valencia. They were asked by a man on his mobile phone how to say something in English and while he distracted them, stole their belongings with their dog still in the car.
Mrs Robinson said: 'It was quick and slick. You may be more tired and therefore more vulnerable when you've been travelling, so separate your valuables into different places in the car, and when you stop be aware you may be being watched. You won't see the accomplice of the person who is distracting you.'
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