The national police are stepping up efforts to catch thieves who prey primarily on tourists in Cuenca’s historic district. They say they are seeing increased instances of scammers using hard-luck stories and distraction techniques to steal money in recent weeks.
Called “paquetazo” and “loteriazo,” the crimes typically involve thieves stopping passers-by with stories of hardship or luring them to banks or ATMs to make withdrawals based on alleged lottery winnings. In the case of Paquetazo schemes, thieves work in groups and steal the belongings of victims while they are distracted with questions by partners.
Police say most reports of scams are in parks, especially Parque Calderon and Parque de la Madre, and in various El Centro market areas. They report that they have made a number of arrests in recent weeks.
Some local residents are also falling victim for the criminal tricks, they add.
Among the scammers, police say, are English-speakers who claim they’ve been robbed and need money to return home. One man tells potential victims that he is from California, while two women claim to be from Israel and South Africa.
The police lookout for scammers was particularly notable over the weekend near the cathedral as large crowds gathered to visit the image of the Virgin of Cisne.