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Avoiding the Most Common Scams in CR

Costa Rica News – Scammers are probably the best people you’ll meet in your entire life. Why? They want something that you have, and they are going to take it from you. These crooks look like anybody else you know; a friend, a trusted neighbor, or somebody posing as a relative, knocking on your doorstep. You may find on the internet, thousands of resources exposing scammers and their MOs, and below is a list of the most common scams in Costa Rica.

costa rica scams 1Investment and Real Estate Scams. An estate builder in Costa Rica can take years to gain approval prior to developing a real estate. In most cases of this type of scam, crooks will show an investor a picture of a well-furnished condo unit or a townhouse. Impressive! He then informs the investor that the estate has been approved, and that development has initiated. Even better! Unknown to the investor, the approval is only for the design of the estate, and not for the development. Crooks will then ask for an initial equity or a sort of reservation fee to guarantee a unit to the investor. They will further promise that the initial fee will be deducted from the total cost of the unit. Sounds like a good bargain, isn’t it? After the investor pays the money, he begins to wait in vain. Months later, investor checks the crook’s business card, calls the developer, and then he realizes, he’s been scammed. Ouch!

Women and Dating Scams. For bachelors, a great way to spend the weekend at the beach is to spend it with a woman… maybe not! Dating services in Costa Rica has been good business since a long time ago. Why not? You have great ocean views, great culture, and beautiful Latinas. Everything is great until you married the girl. You bring her to the US and you’re in for a roller coaster ride! You may even end up in jail for “domestic violence”. Staged! You’re locked up, while she’s out spending all your money with another victim. And by the way, thanks to you, she’s now a green card holder.

Sweepstakes and Telephone Scams. Have you ever received emails congratulating you on your $1 Million dollar prize money? That’s a spam email, and a scam. Delete immediately! The email asks you to send money to cover tax, remittance fees, and other fees prior to receiving the prize money. Note: You don’t pay for legitimate sweepstakes or raffle prize money. No legal sweepstakes commission would do that. Same goes for people calling your house, telling you to wire money so they can send you the hefty check. This type of scam usually targets the old people, weak, or disabled. If you fall for this trap, next thing you’ll know, you’ve sent off all your life savings to these crooks.

Rent-A-Car Flat Tire Scams. Car rental in Costa Rica is a good business. Renting doesn’t cost much, and a car can bring you to a lot of places in no time. Nothing but a tourist would fall for this easy-to-pull scam. Soon after you’ve hopped in, someone punctures the tire. So you keep on driving until the tire becomes flat, and someone comes to your rescue. How lucky! You think he was actually heaven-sent, huh? He offers to change the tire, while another opens the car door and snatches your valuables. And there goes your cell phone and your passport.

Car Bump Situation. This scam puts you in a sort of “slight car accident” and has two scenarios; one is that you’ve unknowingly hit a car and supposedly “ran from it”, causing your “victim” to chase after you, or another car bumps you from behind, hopes that you would stop the car and get down. Either way, DO NOT STOP NOR GET DOWN FORM YOUR VEHICLE. This MO may happen on the main street, but most often in dim-lit side streets, particularly in Alajuela and downtown San Jose. If you are being harassed, stop your vehicle at a well-lit gasoline station, a police station, or a public place with lots of nice-looking people. Usually, the crooks would ask for cash and let you go, but don’t forget to safeguard your other belongings.

The best way to deter these scammers, con artists, crooks, or whatever you call them, is to be vigilant. If they promise you something that’s too good to be true, then it sure is. They don’t cherry-pick their victims. You can be old and weak, but if you are educated on their MOs, you won’t fall into their traps. If your instincts tell you that you are being scammed at the moment, be intelligent and run. Nothing good comes from trying to confront these scammers.

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