Avoid the bird poop scam in Spain — passerby is not trying to help you

The ‘bird poop’ scam is alive and well all over Spain.

Just in case  you have not heard of the bird poop scam in Spain, it is worth reading up on it. That way you know what it is and what to do if you are ever a target.

What is the bird poop scam in Spain, and how might it affect you?

Bird poop on your shoulder?

If you are ever walking on a Spanish street, either alone or with someone else, and you feel something wet suddenly appearing on your clothing, your skin or your hair, this could very well be the bird poop scam.

This is a scam not only perpetrated in Spain, but in many other places around the world as well.

The scam usually involves at least two people.

One to spray a white liquid resembling ‘bird poop’ on you and then walk away. The other one to play the ‘friendly passerby’ who is just trying to help.

As the passerby whips out a handkerchief or a wet-wipe so you can clean your clothing, skin or hair, your unattended bag will be stolen or your pocket picked.

The substance sprayed on you will usually be placed on your shoulder or your back. That way you are more likely to remove your bag or backpack to clean it. That is when the thief will grab it and run.

Being with someone is less likely to have you become the victim of the bird poop scam, especially if your companion is vigilant about what is happening.

How to avoid the bird poop scam in Spain?

If anyone attempts to help you clean up bird poop, ketchup, mustard, coffee or anything else that could stain or is wet, do not stop walking. Instead, refuse their help, push them away if you have to, and move quickly towards a crowded area.

Chances are some random person offering to help you clean up a mess is planning on stealing your money, your laptop, tablet or phone or even your passport.

Once you are away from them, check that your belongings are intact immediately and, if not, report the incident to Spanish police.

If you file a police report, you will be able to use it to claim on any travel insurance you may have when you return home.

Related: Top tourist scams in Spain — and how to avoid them

Hundreds of people in Spain every month, and tens of thousands world-wide, have belongings and money stolen by this popular scam.

It is not usually a dangerous scam, in that you are not likely to be knifed or hurt in any way. But it would be annoying and inconvenient if you lost money, belongings or a passport while on holiday.

Especially the latter, as you would find it difficult to leave the country without it.

Busy public areas seem to be where it is more likely the bird poop scam will occur.

Where does the scam take place?

It can honestly take place anywhere in Spain, from large cities to small towns. Although you are more likely to be a victim of this scam in a tourist area.

The bird poo scam has been reported happening in places like Retiro Park and Jardines de Sabatini in Madrid, Park Guell and Las Ramblas in Barcelona and Parque De La Paloma in Benalmádena.

It has also happened often on random streets all over Spain.

Is Spain dangerous?

No. Spain is an incredibly safe country and, if you are American, very likely much safer than many places in America (no mass shootings in Spain, for instance!)

Just like anywhere in the world, though, there are scam artists operating, and so it is good to know what to look out for before you arrive.