British drivers warned of Rome mirror scam

Motorists conned into paying cash over fake accidents in Rome.

British tourists driving in Rome have been advised by the British Foreign Office to be aware of a ploy used by criminals who simulate car accidents and then demand compensation.

The so-called "mirror scam", known in Rome as the truffa dello specchietto, involves motorists hearing a bang - usually effected by a stone or stick - before being urged to pull over.

At this point the unwitting driver is falsely accused of causing damage to the other car - normally an already-cracked wing mirror - and then being coerced into handing over cash to the criminals.

The British Foreign Office warns on its website: "Those in cars can sometimes be targeted by thieves. Robberies from cars have been reported particularly in and around Rome, Milan and Pisa, as well as at motorway service stations."

The advice continues: "Be aware that thieves may use a variety of methods to distract you or encourage you to stop your car. These may include asking for help or directions, or pointing out a fictional fault with your car."

In 2018 there were reportedly 150 complaints to Rome police over the scam, although there may have been many more cases unreported, resulting in 27 arrests.

Rome daily newspaper Il Messaggero reported that in recent days a 75-year-old Italian lady, driving on the Pontina, was conned into handing over €350. However, luckily for her, the scene was witnessed by police who returned the cash and arrested the conmen.

Il Messaggero also reports that the commander of the city's police was even targeted in the scam in recent years. The criminals reportedly failed to recognise their target, and lived to regret their actions.