Seniors Falling For "Smoking Car" Scam - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Seniors Falling For "Smoking Car" Scam

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It's a scary scam that every senior in San Diego County should be aware of.

The scam starts with con artists preying upon an elderly driver. The scammers from their car then frantically wave the senior down, yelling that their car is on fire. Once the senior pulls over, the con artists say 'Pop your trunk', one scammer then takes the elderly victim away from the car while the other one sneaks around back and actually starts a fire, faking an emergency in the back of the senior's trunk.

Carlsbad Police Detective Patty Parra says she's searching for a pack of gypsies.

"Not all gypsies are criminals, let's start with that right now," she said.

But in the past four months, Parra says these gypsies who last hit in Arizona have hit three sets of seniors in their 80s in Carlsbad alone.

"It's very alarming to an elderly woman if a man contacts her and says your car is on fire, you can't drive it," she said.

Not only do the gypsies make it seem like they just saved the senior's life, they claim that their smoking car is a stroke of luck.

"'You are so lucky, because I am a mechanic and I can fix that right here,'" Parra said.

The crooks then convince their victims to drive to the nearest bank, where they scam the seniors out of $2,000 or $3,000.

"It's scandalous, it's just horrifying," Parra said.

Detective Parra says she's looking for six gypsies in all, four men and two women seen driving a gold Chevy Yukon with 22-inch chrome rims. After working a certain part of the country over about two months, they move on, only leaving a paper trail of police reports behind.

"So if you don't catch them when they are here, they are going to be in another state by a different name within a week or two," Parra said.

Because law enforcers don't want the life savings from other seniors going up in flames, six agencies across the county are working this case, including the sheriff's department and police agencies in San Diego, El Cajon, Escondido, Oceanside and Carlsbad.

Law enforcers say the gypsies' scams also include offering to work on your roof or fix dents in your car.

If you have a tip for Carlsbad police about these crimes, call (760) 931-2100.

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