Scam Alert: “he tells me that I need to pull over, my tire is about to fall off”

shady
Photo by PoPville flickr user Mark Andre

“Dear PoPville,

I recently had an experience that left me shaken. I posted this to my FB page and it seems that it’s happened to one other person, too, and perhaps even more who I may not be associated with in social media.

Below is that FB post:

So I’ve been debating if this information was relevant to share, but it’s left me a little shaken up so…here goes. (Consider it a PSA for single women who drive around by themselves)

On Sunday I was driving in DC – @ 11:30am. I was on Rhode Island Ave NE. A guy pulls up next to me an starts to frantically get my attention. I roll down my passenger side window and he tells me that I need to pull over, my tire is about to fall off, it’s really shaking. I immediately vier over into the right hand lane and pull into a BofA parking lot. The guy pulls off with me. He’s in a beat up red van and gets out. I get out, too. He proceeds to try and budge my tire. At this point I’m standing outside of my car on the passenger side. A second vehicle pulls up to my driver’s side – two guys in a truck. They seem to know each other. One starts to get out of the truck as the red van guy tries to get me to “get down on the ground” to see this “ball joint” that’s supposedly loose. I immediately circle my car, get back in, lock the doors and roll down the window to tell the red van guy that I’m going to head to friend’s place and call AAA, thanks. He get’s upset, rolls his eyes and tells me that I can’t drive with my wheel like this. The truck of two guys pulls off.

I take my car to VW yesterday and there’s NOTHING wrong with my car.

Just in case this ever happens, here are a few tips to know if you have a loose tire:

A) Do any lights come on? If your vehicle is 2000 or newer, your dashboard should let you know something’s up.

B) Let go of the wheel. If the car is strongly pulling to the left and the right, something’s up.

C) Drive and roll down the window. Do you hear a noise? Maybe a clicking noise?

D) Don’t believe any mother f*cker who tries to pull you over unless you do the 3 things above. Then flick him off and tell him you’re not going to be another statistic.

~~~~end post~~~~~~~~

One friend replied with:

This happened to me too, on NY Ave NE eight or so years ago. I was fool enough to pay the guy $50 to “fix” my loose tire.
~~~~~

When I went to the VW dealer the next day, they said there was nothing wrong with the tire to begin with.

I think these scammers target women. And the scam has been going on for years.
After this incident, I called 311 and my only option was to select Fire & EMS, who then transferred me to the communications department (311) for DC police, who then transferred me to the 3rd district police department. After speaking to the 3rd precinct, the lady on the phone asked me twice “but did you get a license plate?” I told her I hadn’t thought of that and she told me that they can’t do anything. I asked her if this information was relevant in a PSA sort of way, or maybe just bring this to the Police’s attention and she told me that they couldn’t do anything about it then disconnected.

I think that this is an important story to share in case there’s a scam out there where single women driving around are targeted in NE.

38 Comment

  • If your tire is “about to fall off” you’ll know it well before some stranger waves you down. The car will be shaking badly as you drive. Pretty sure I’ve read about this same scam before on Popville.

  • Thanks for posting. You did well to get away from them.
    .
    Sorry the police aren’t interested in informing about scams going around. This could be more unsafe than just looking for $50 when someone gets you to pull over under false pretenses.

    • While I’m not generally apologetic of MPD, what do you want them to do? You’re not informing them of anything they’re not already aware of. When someone calls them and can’t even provide a license plate, there’s nothing they can do.

      • what do I want them to do? uhhh… i don’t know… maybe a real police work? Like going to the BofA branch to check maybe the cameras caught anything?

        • Um, there wasn’t any crime committed. What the hell would they be checking for?

          • Conspiracy to commit fraud by false pretenses? Same as any other scam.

            I’m sure there SOME crime here…

          • This would be a really hard crime to prove though. The scammer’s defense would be to swear that he thought the vehicle’s wheel was loose…and only after inspecting the vehicle was that proven to not be the case.
            .
            I can understand why MPD wouldn’t waste time and resources on this one.

          • Since they asked if she got “a license plate” I figured they’d at least check the cameras.
            Unless it was just an excuse to get her off their hair.

          • It was most likely the latter.

          • they have us working in shifts!

          • Attempted theft by trick

  • They seem to know each other. One starts to get out of the truck as the red van guy tries to get me to “get down on the ground” to see this “ball joint” that’s supposedly loose…… Had you “gotten down” you would have walked back around to your purse gone and any other valuable item you were carrying in your car. This is fairly common at gas stations too.

  • Your check engine light won’t come on if your wheel is loose. That won’t throw any sort of trouble code.

    • You’re right the check engine light won’t come on, but many newer vehicles will have a tire pressure sensor and this light will illuminate if the tire is loose, blown, or flat.

      • For what it’s worth… my car (not so new) has a tire pressure sensor, but on the occasions that I’ve had flat tires, it’s never registered anything.

        • Sounds like you have a blown light for the tire pressure sensor or a malfunctioning one (if indeed you had one). Either way, a functional sensor would work as I described above.

    • Totally agree. Having had the unfortunate instance of my ex husband blowing not one, but TWO ball joints resulting in broken axles both times, the key indicator of a breaking or broken ball joint will be extremely unsteady steering, extreme difficulty steering, and a lot of noise. It has nothing to do with the engine.

  • I have seen this same story posted to Popville many times- never let ANY STRANGER follow you or pull over with you. Female drivers (and drivers with kids, seemingly harmless) included because they can be working in tandem with men who can then drive up to you with you standing outside of your parked vehicle and then you’re outnumbered. Drive to the nearest public place, mechanic, police station, fire station with your hazards on if you’re truly worried.

    If this happens again, which I am sure it will, I hope license plate numbers are taken and reported to the police and maybe if it happens as frequently as I have read on this one blog alone, the police will be obligated to investigate.

  • This happened to my parents some 30 years ago in Italy. A guy on a motorbike drove by once, then drove by a second time to tell them to pull over to check their tire. They were about to pull over when some pedestrian shouted at them that there was a gas station just a block ahead, so they went up there.

    In fact, their tire was slashed. The scam was for tourists to pull over and open their trunk to get the spare tire, at which point they could grab our luggage. In this case, because we stopped at a gas station, that plan was foiled, but then they drove by one more time and tried to grab my mom’s handbag, whereupon she kicked one of them in the junk (very atypical behavior for her) and they rode off into the sunset without having stolen anything or hurt anything except our tire.

  • You can totally feel a loose tire, you’d know before someone tells you. But good looking out, thanks. At a gas station I had some guy offer to fix a dent in my car.. If I followed him to his garage.. Bitch, PLEASE!

  • Lots and lots of folks have encountered this scam. My sister had this happen to her on RI Ave NE a few years back. She got taken by the guy and gave him $50 or whatever she had on her.

    It’s been covered on POP at least once before: http://www.popville.com/2015/11/heads-up-man-posing-as-a-good-samaritan-helping-with-car-trouble/

  • I Dont Get It

    This is a very old scam. When I was living in Kentucky and out driving my first car on a sunny Sunday through Cherokee Park, someone signaled me to pull over because my back tire was wobbling which was a sign my frame was out of alignment (or something like that). Fortunately he was “on break” from his job at an auto body shop* and had the tools to fix this in his truck and was willing to repair it for me on the spot for $50.

    Because I was living in Kentucky and driving my first car, I didn’t have $50. Later I learned there was nothing wrong with my car and that this was a scam although now that I think about it, I’m not sure how we learned of scams before the internet. Maybe it was listed in the Yellow Pages under “Scams”?
    *I was too naïve at the time to question this auto body shop supposedly open on a Sunday in Blue Laws Kentucky!

    • Well, one way might have been by police alerting people to common scams, but posters above don’t seem to think we should ask the police to do that anymore.

      • The internet simply allows information to spread faster. In the old days before computers, one criminal might simply talk to another criminal about a scam, and so on. And smart people with evil minds might even be able to come up with the scam without consulting an outside source.

  • Whether you are driving or walking, never let anyone interrupt your forward progress. When driving, keep moving and get to safe place. When I’m walking, if someone tries to stop me to say something, I “might” slow my pace a bit: ask me where the Metro is and I’ll give you directions, but start with some BS about “my car broke down and I need gas money…” I resume my pace and don’t say a word to the person.

  • As If

    yikes! like that scene in zodiac with the woman and baby…

  • The Zodiac Killer used this rouse on a woman in Modesto. Fortunately, she managed to escape. It’s a truly creepy story.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zodiac_Killer#Modesto_attack

  • Even if your ball joint gets a little loose, you’re likely to notice it. If your wheel is about to fall off, believe me you’ll notice it right away.

  • I had presumably the same guy wave me over in Brookland off 7th St, heading north towards Michigan Ave. It was one of those huge 9-seater vans and was red and quite old/worn down. He always works on cars in my neighborhood and he saw my tire wobbling. He explained the same issue as OP but instead of getting back in my car, I let him demonstrate the tire wobbling by backing my car up and observing from the outside. I let him do that because a cop was right across the street and watching what was going on. The thing about it was that my tire DID look dangerously wobbly when he did that! I don’t know how he could’ve faked that. I let him fix it and paid him $60.. As I was driving off, I began wondering if I had been had. But I kept thinking that there was no way he could’ve faked my tire wobbling…

  • The guy in the beat up red van tried the same thing with me last Tuesday on Monore St NE, but he was alone. I made the mistake of getting of my car, but luckily nothing happened. I told him I was going to call my mechanic and he became upset and drove away. My car is fine.

  • Someone once tried this on a couple years ago me but wasn’t quite as frantic about it. I was 2 blocks from my destination so I kept driving and checked it out when I parked (and, of course, my tire was fine). At the time, I just thought the other driver was confused/seeing things but now I’m thinking maybe it was the same scam.

  • The same thing happened to me at the Yes in Brookland about four years ago. My suggestion is even if you think you do have an issue, call the police or someone else to come and meet you. The guy told me he had a special tool in his van and he could fix it in five minutes for $50. I was smart enough to know it was a scam, I drove home and had my neighbor check the car just to be safe. Nothing was wrong with my wheel

  • Happened to me also a couple of years ago on RI Ave just before the home depot. Luckily, i pulled into HD close to a cop car, and the guy bugged off. I’ve had people try stuff like this before in the past, and there are quick ways to tell if someone is lying or not. Watch “The Lives of others” or read up on interrogation techniques for a few hints.

  • This is how people get kidnapped. Do not ever pull over to the side of the road with someone you do not know. If some type of emergency, you need to pull into a well lit area, possibly either with cops in the area, or a highly populated area.

  • Some guy tried to tell me this a couple of years ago while I was on Rhode Island Ave, NW, turning onto 7th Street. I stopped and talked to him. He was trying to tell me that he was a licensed mechanic and his uniform was in his car. If I let him, he could fix it there and if I didn’t, I risked having my tire fall off. I am sure that this scam has worked on people before, but if you tire is actually going to fall off, you will know. Potholes and crappy road conditions can do a lot of damage to your car, but it is pretty hard to make a wheel come off at the ball joint. If this were about to happen, there would be some pretty terrible noises coming from the wheel. I would never trust someone that is offering to do work on my car on the side of the road. it is almost always evidence of a scam. They probably won’t actually do anything to your car and they will always over charge you, and worse yet, they may actually break something.

  • Thanks to the OP for posting this, I had just gotten new tires a few days earlier so had I not read this I might actually have believed it given the timing. Figured they hadent tightened the wheels when the put them back on. However I just told him “no it’s not” and rolled my window up and kept driving. Luckily once I got home I checked and they were on tight. I am also a woman who was driving alone in Brookland area.

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