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Friday, November 28 2014 @ 03:23 PM EST

Gringa Robbed (Purse Snatch) in the Pricemart Parking Lot

Crime & Punishment By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received this afternoon via email from veteran Gringa and Altos del Maria expat Honey Lanham: "Late yesterday afternoon, right before dark, my purse and tote were stolen from me in the parking lot of the El Dorado PriceSmart on Tumba Muerto. It was a team purse-snatching scam involving as many as four people. Usually, I have so many groceries that I have someone help me load the car. But, yesterday, I had less than ten items and none of them was heavy, so I left the store alone. The parking lot was so full that I was parked across the drive from Office Depot and beyond the covered area. But I was right below a security camera (although after the event, the police did not seem all that interested in whether the incident had been videotaped.) Anyway, I put my cart behind my SUV, hit the clicker, and opened the back right door to load 2 items into my cooler on the seat. As I did that, I put my purse into the front passenger seat and closed the door. Then, I opened the back hatch door. As I started to load the back, two young women walked from the passenger side to the back and asked me a stupid question about something in the cart. I answered as I picked the item up, and they walked away toward Tumba Muerto. I finished packing the back and closed the hatch. (more)
  • "I then heard a car screech out of the lot, and I looked up and saw that it was a small white sedan. I also noticed that the two women were not to be seen. The moment I opened the driver's door and saw the empty passenger seat, I knew what had happened. I found the passenger door was slightly ajar. Someone besides the two women had stolen my purse and tote which had been on the floor. Then a driver had picked them all up. Clever of them, stupid of me.

  • Lessons learned: when I leave the PriceSmart or any other store with a huge parking lot, I'll in the future take a bag deliveryman with me, no matter how small the load. Or, ask for a guard to escort me. Better yet, I will shop with a companion. And after I've used the clicker to open one door, I will lock all the rest.

  • I will also be using a crossover shoulder bag or wearing fanny pack at all times. I'll be more aware of my surroundings when I am getting in or out of the car, and have a list of a few important phone numbers in the car, so I can immediately get in touch with police, family, friends.

  • After the robbery, the real fun began. The PriceSmart people talked to me but took no information. They did call the police. About eight uniformed police arrived and talked to me and took notes. The police had me follow them to the Bethania station where they took more notes. Then, they led me to the Ancon Hill station where they took even more notes.

  • In order to make a legal report, useful in documenting a theft after the fact, an official interpreter is required for anyone who is not fluent in Spanish. So, one was called to the Ancon station. She had me fill out a report in English which she then transcribed in Spanish and put it into a computer.

  • They made about eight copies (two of them for me). The report is called a Denuncia and has a number. I will use the Denuncia and its number to prove what happened as I go about replacing my passport, bank accounts, credit cards, telephone, driver's license, residence visa, etc. Finally, at about 1:30 am, I left the station.

  • One of my biggest problems was that the robbers had my phone with all my numbers in it. I didn't even know my husband Larry's phone number. I had my car, my keys, my groceries, and most of my cash (which I happened to have put in a front pocket of my pants).

  • Of course, no one I know in Panama is listed in the phone book. They almost all use cell phones, which have no directory. The police would not let me use their computer so that I could send an email. I finally thought to call my insurance agent, Hernando Vasquez. I had written his number in the car owner's manual, still in my glove box. He then called several of our mutual friends to get my husband's number, got it, then called Larry. Thankfully, the policemen were kind enough to let me use their phones for those calls.

  • I was home by 3:00 am and in bed by 4 am and up this morning making many calls to stop the use of our cards and telephone. Our Panamanian credit card could not be stopped after office hours.

  • Maybe my story will help reduce the frequency of this scam. The crooks will come up with others, but this one will be more difficult. I spent a lot of time in the police station waiting rooms talking to Panamanians who had stolen cars and home robberies and such. One woman told me that many of these scammers are women, and that they are successful because they appear to be less threatening.

  • That's my story, and I'm sticking with it.

  • Honey Lanham Dodge,

  • happy to be alive and well and back home in Altos del Maria!"

Non Violent, Easy Victim: Thank God they just grabbed your purse and no one got hurt. Anyway, everyone else please just study Honey's story and learn from what happened to her. A single woman alone with a purse makes an attractive target. Thanks for sharing your story.

Copyright 2009 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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