Parking Scams in Portugal

Parking Scams at Amado Beach Portimão!

Parking Scams at Amado Beach Portimão!

Do you experience problems with “Parking Scammers”? They are rife in Portugal and they REALLY annoy me!.

It does not matter whether you park in a side road or in a free car park the “Parking Scammers” are lurking – just waiting to spring into action by directing you into a “free” parking space. “Free” being the operative word. Then, the moment you step out of your car they pounce – demanding money. I know their presence can feel really intimidating, but please do not give in to their demands. Tourists and foreigners are  prime targets especially if you do not speak the lingo and unable to understand their demands. However, some do speak English and are very persuasive!

I found them particularly intimidating when Mr. Piglet was in Faro hospital. There was no on-site parking so I had no choice but to run the gauntlet of “Parking Scammers” as they tried to direct me, without success, into one of “their” parking spaces. When I ignored them and parked elsewhere, undeterred, they ran after me and stood by my car menacingly waiting for payment.

Several of our friends, frightened their cars will be damaged, “pay up”. Why do we live in a state of fear and give in to these people?

Last week, the weather was beautiful so we went to Amado Beach in Portimão. Because it was out-of-season we were fortunate to find parking in one of the free car parks. However, as we drove in, our hearts sunk; we were greeted by a “Parking Scammer” trying to direct us into a parking space…come on the car park was empty!

Mr. Piglet momentarily tempted to run him over swerved at the last-minute ignoring the guy’s frantic gestures as he pointed at a car parking space. He decided to try his luck anyway, and knocked on our window demanding money. His demands were met with blank stares and total indifference, so he wandered off.

Spotting his next victim “Parking Scammer” sprung into action, but this time he struck lucky – Ahhh ha Touristo!! Easy pickings!!

Bom Dia Senhora” he cooed “You make donation?
He played the part of slimy con man well as he as he hovered expectantly, smiling insincerely at the Senhora. Senhora, who obviously had left brains at home that morning, emptied her purse into her hand, proffers him a handful of change and asked.
How much do you want?
I could not bear to watch as he gleefully helped himself. Senhora then thinks to ask.
Errr what is the donation for?”
I did not catch his reply but just caught the smug look of triumph as he swaggered off. Feeling confident he went to approach us again; stopped in his tracks, thought better of it, and walked off in the other direction. Sensible guy – to quit while you’re ahead!

This is just one scam…there are MANY more…

As we made our way down the 118 steps to the beautiful beach below, I looked back, and spotted “Parking Scammer” directing his next victim into a parking space. Pushing negative thoughts from my mind, as I struggled down the steps with our beach gear; I paused, much to Mr. Piglet’s amazement, to take some photographs.

Amado Beach Portimão

Amado Beach Portimão

I really cannot understand why the Police allow scammers, do they turn a blind eye?
What type of parking scams do you have in your country?
Would you pay-up or ignore their demands?

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58 responses to “Parking Scams in Portugal

  1. Ha! The only parking scam we have in my area is where you pay one price on one side of the street and a lower (or even free after 6pm!) on the other side!

    BTW, great beach picture!

    Cheers!

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  2. I would totally freak out and pay the guy. I hate confrontation, which can be a good thing, but not in that case. Although, now that I know about the scam, I might be able to psych myself up ahead of time if that ever happens to me.

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  3. That would really bug me PiP, I don’t like being ripped off. I’ve never been to Portugal so have no idea what it must be like parking etc but I’m sure I’d suss something out to play them at their own game – sounds like you’ve got them pegged anyway!
    Parking bugs me here but I find most traffic wardens are only trying to do their job and it’s usually the motorists that are at fault by not reading the signs or trying to take liberties – there’s many times I wish a traffic warden would come by when I see stupid and unreasonable parking..
    Can you not take some Monopoly money or chocolate coins instead, although on second thoughts the chocolate might melt…. just my crazy sense of humour!

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    • Hey Nuggetsandpearls,
      I could give them a boiled sweet! I am with you in that I can’t abide to be ripped off. I’m not sure I’ve noticed traffic wardens since moving to Portugal…the GNR seem to patrol our town (they are similar to police but carry guns) and are always harassing motorists. I wish they would hassle these guys…
      8)

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  4. Hi PiP, I can’t say that I’ve ever had a similar situation but if I was approached by someone asking for payment in a free parking lot I would just ignore them and hope they go away.

    But then I might have second thoughts about leaving my car there and what could happen to it. 🙂

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  5. I don’t drive nor travel abroad but parking can be just as expensive in our neck of the woods. Our parking has just gone from free to 70p an hour… so it is the council that rob us. I guess being disabled does have its advantages…M

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    • My goodnes 70pence an hour that’s outrageous! I remember th parking scams in the UK wee more to do with wheelclamps….oh and another one was in the car parks near us it was free parking from 10pm until 6am. People would go out on a Saurday night and rather than drink and drive would take a taxi home. They would then return the next morning to find a ticket. For some reason, I am unable to recall now, I was in the car park very early one morning and watched the parking attendents come along and post tickets on all the cars left overnight. Not only that but they took photographs of the car as well. 😦 I wonder if they were on commission?

      PiP

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  6. It really hurts my heart anytime someone is taken advantage of. My sister had her wallet and passport picked from her bag while she was on vacation in Paris. Very sad.

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    • Hi Jeanne,
      The incident must have spoilt her holiday.

      I was mugged in Lyon, but because I had part of my wedding outfit in my bag I would not let go! My daughter had her backberry stolen . The incident happened just 2 days before our daughters wedding so there was no way on earth anyone was going to make off with my bag! I even spotted our muggers the other side of the road and thought to myself – they looked suspicious! They crossed the road and attacked us from behind. It was really frightening 😦
      PiP

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  7. Well we don’t have parking scammers in this little city, generally parking is free, but there are time limits. And we have some very punctual enforcement officers, so unless you want a ticket you’d better vacate that spot pronto! BTW – what have your fuel prices been doing over the last few weeks? Ours have been rising quickly in response to the unrest across several oil producing countries.

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    • Hi JC…hmmm they have not moved in yet if parking is free!

      The fuel price this morning for diesel (which is cheaper than petrol) was €1.44 per litre !! This has gone up over 20cents in the last fortnight!
      At this rate we will be buying a burro and cart! (donkey) ! What’s the prices where you are?
      PiP

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  8. I appreciated your post, as usual, and am reminded what a small town girl I truly am. I have never heard of that particular type of scam, although I know there are plenty on this planet. All sorts of human beings trying to find a way to live. I guess that puts it compassionately. I’m not sure what, exactly, I’d do in such a situation, although I am feisty and would not allow myself to be taken advantage of, unless I felt truly threatened. I’m glad you and Mr. Piglet are safe and handled this particular con-guy so adeptly.

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    • Hi Ellen,
      This type of scam is common in the Algarve because it’s a tourist area and tourists are easy pickings.

      However, we were sitting at a cafe this morning and an elderly Portuguese man approached me. He opened his hand and shows me 40cents while asking me something in Portuguese. I gathered he wanted money for a coffee so I tried to give him a euro coin, but he would not take my money. Confused I went into the cafe to see if anyone could translate. Apparently, he only wanted 10cents from me so he had enough to buy a coffee -that’s why he was refusing my euro coin and I was giving him too much.

      Here was an elderly disabled man in deperate need. My mother hen instincts kicked in so I paid for today’s coffee and pressed the remainder of the change into the palm of his hand with the simple word “amanha”and a smile. The warm genuine smile that lit up his wizened face and the way he touched my arm in gratitude brought a tear to my eye. It made me realise how lucky I am 🙂

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  9. I’ve never heard of anything like this. Not sure how I would handle it. I know I don’t like panhandlers on the street.

    Glad you had a beautiful day at the beach, PiP!

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    • Hi Nancy,
      Another scam is for someone to approach you when you are packing your shopping and point to something under your car. Distracted you look down or under the car while another person snatches your handbag or valuables.

      Yep, the beach was wonderful and completely secluded 🙂

      PiP

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  10. We have car guards everywhere in South Africa. This is because thefts and break ins are very common, so anywhere you go, you will fine a person that helps you park and then ‘guards’ your car. People tend to give a ‘donation’ of small change upon their return to the vehicle.

    So these are not scams, but these are intrusive. Sometimes they get a bit pushy.

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    • Hi,
      These unfortunately are not car guards. These guys demand a “donation” as you get out of the car. In Portugal there is very little to guard your car from.
      These scammers tend to be Eastern Europeans (from their accent) after making a quick buck! 8)

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  11. Hey Pip, I recall an incident like this when I was about 14 on holiday with my family in Tenerife. My dad pulled our hire car into a parking space because he was directed their by this guy but when he asked for payment my dad said no and just drove off!

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  12. Same thing in Nigeria too! Drove me nuts.

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  13. I wouldn’t pay it but I would be concerned that they might do damage to the car. How annoying that must be.

    Beautiful beach picture, btw!

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  14. Thank you so much for your story. I was not aware of these types of scams, I must learn not to be so “friendly” to others when in new places, or familiar ones too for that matter.

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  15. hey Mr Piglet!
    Oh god if you knew how much I hate them….they are a big scum as you told! Many are drug adicted… I don´t , many has been written about this issue, but less has been done. I don´t like them and I don´t feel free with them near me….

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  16. Do you pay them with Portugese money? Or other money? I’d find a way to pay them with some fake money. After a while they might stop bothering you. It reminds me of the scammers in Spain with the taxi fares.

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  17. I just filled my tank for $1.16/litre (gas). I’m not sure what diesel is going for right now. Thankfully my commute to work is very short so a full tank (around $55.00) should last me 3 weeks to a month, barring out of town jaunts.

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  18. Wow I never heard of this scam. I don’t think they’d allow that here—they have other scams in some neighborhoods but it’s not mainstream US. We have a lot of panhandlers here in AZ though, but mostly they stand at the end of parking lots with signs and don’t generally accost you. I can’t pass one by who has a dog!

    That’s too bad your excursions have to be marred by aggressive, well—thieves is what they are.

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  19. hi Piglet…we have the car guards here too…a reall pain in the butt…however…they hang around for a tip when you leave and don’t ask up front…a lot of people also pay out of fear they will find a nice scratch on their car if they don’t!

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  20. I’d never heard of this before. I live just outside of New York City and the only scammers I get to deal with are the ones that ask for $25 for an hour of parking! These are the ones that have their own parking lots and yeah, they can charge if they want to, but the prices are ridiculous! It’s public transportation for me most of the time!

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  21. I cant tell you how many times these guys have saved me from getting a parking ticket – and all it cost me was a copper coin and little courtesy.

    There seems to be a misunderstanding, piglet. There is no scam. They are not trying to rip you off at all. The system works like this: Gentleman works a parking area that is in much demand. He takes note of how long each “customer” will be approximately so that he can double-park people until a space comes up for them, or can advise parkers how long they may have to wait. Gentleman, if you slip him 20 cents, 50 cents or even one little euro if you’re feeling generous, will not only guard your car but will pay for your parking, making sure you have a valid ticket on your dashboard should the parking police come around. You can then park there for as long as you like and he will take care of business. The deal is if you do buy a ticket from the machine, you give it to him. On the other hand, if you fail to treat said gentleman like a fellow human being, albeit one down on his luck and having to deal face to face with the shitty foreigners who treat him like a criminal, then he will take no responsibility for what might happen to your car while you are gone. In the larger picture, you just might be disgracing your fellow compatriots (and any other whitie trying to get along with the locals) and making us the target of prejudice and mistrust. All for a measly 50 cents?

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    • Emma…No misunderstanding on my part. The parking was free. No ticket machines – and if I need a ticket I am quite capable of buying one along with telling the time as to when my ticket is due to run out. Errrr somehow I ‘ve managed this for 30yrs.
      Funny how the “locals” don’t like these people as Jaime said above. I am fed up of scroungers “ripping” off tourists and if that makes me a disgrace to my fellow compatriots so be it. Anyway, these particular scammers
      are not local Portuguese but other “shitty” foreigners like you and me.

      In a country where locals still leave their front doors unlocked, I’m puzzled, why would you need someone to guard your car? If you feel you have to pay these people so you are not a target of prejudice and mistrust I don’t know what to say in the way you judge Portuguese people.
      Incidentally, I gave my 50cents to an elderly Portuguese gentleman down on his luck so he could buy his morning bica.
      PiP

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  22. Here in Brazil, we call them “flanelinhas” because they approach your car wiping your wind shield. The problem is they are so many by now that I wish to have a machinegun to solve this problem.
    One of the worst problems in Brazil is too many cars and no streets, no parkings and no roads.

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  23. Thanks for the story PiP. I never heard of this but then I have never been to Portugal. Our scammers seem to be our public transits and city. We are paying through the nose and have to get on dirty and crowded buses/trains, etc. The parking is terrible and expensive but that’s nothing new.

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  24. Just read this blog and thought I’d share this. Arrived in Lisbon last week with new Renault with French plates. Asked the hotel owner to suggest a car park and was told it would be looked after. On arrival we were ushered into a car park on the street and told not to purchase a ticket . We noticed that for three days our parking was being “paid for” by our new friend. We intended to give our friend a generous “payment” for his efforts when leaving as we had watched him work the street and got the gist of what was happening. On day four we were greeted with a cheery hello which we returned but that night the car was broken into, glass smashed and robbed. It seems our day 4 encounter was the request for payment. It is extortion pure and simple and is widespread . We are seeing it in Seville right now. By the way the police shrugged their shoulders and smiled when we showed them the car. Couldn’t wait to leave Lisbon despite its many charms

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    • Hi David,
      Thank you so much for sharing your story – sounds like the hotel were in on the scam as well! It’s a great shame because Portugal need their tourism right now. The problem is unless the police stop this it is going to spread. We were having a conversation about the beggars in the supermarket carparks, this evening. Apparently they are hasseling you to take your trolly away so they can get the euro. There is also another scam where they try and distract you while you are unapcking your shopping and then steal your handbag. They are apparently working in twos and threes… It’s a shame you wnet away with such a negative experience of Portugal.

      Best
      PiP

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  25. Pingback: Pet Peeves, Grumbles and Stuff That Bugs Me! | Piglet in Portugal

  26. I encountered this exact thing in Jamaica in 1975.

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  27. ARG! I feel your pain. When we lived in Italy, parking was forever a source of stress. And if you don’t pay them, you WILL get robbed.

    We were ever so pleasantly surprised when we visited this summer, that the days of organized parking seemed to be over! Let me tell you…every time we parked the car anywhere I was insecure because I wasn’t quite convinced they really WERE gone. How could we get away with parking in the road across from where we were going & just get away with it?? Good job, Italia!

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    • Hi tyco beans and welcome! Excellent job Italia! Wish the Portuguese would take some action! Just last week I had to park near the hospital and once again was subject to these illegal parking valets! I received an email from a tourist in Lisbon, paid them and his car was stikll trashed. Needless to say he said he wont be returning to Portugal anytime soon. What a great shame because it’s a really beautiful country!

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  28. portugal citizen

    this is nothing to do with scam,its an help for people who need,all of us portuguese people is generous and give them 0.20€ 0.50€,you tourist become to portugal and become very closed mind…what scam is on this???7OMG

    Like

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