NAPLES, Italy — Motorists should be aware of a possible scam in Italy in which drivers are being pulled over by fake police in unmarked cars, U.S. Navy officials said.

On March 12, a car carrying a NATO force member and family was pulled over by an unmarked vehicle on the SS7, a major highway that runs past the U.S. Navy support site base at Gricignano.

According to an account in the Naples base newspaper, the female driver of the suspicious vehicle, which also carried two men, flashed headlights to get the NATO driver to pull over.

One of the men approached the NATO member’s vehicle and displayed what looked like a badge. At one point, he aggressively reached in, trying to open the glove compartment. A brief tussle and argument ensued, possibly scaring away the trio. No one was seriously harmed.

A Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent said it was unclear what the three might have been after, according to the newspaper’s account.

However, Italian police officials who enforce traffic laws in Italy do not use unmarked vehicles, said Lt. Cmdr. Perry Suter, head of Naval Support Activity Naples.

Suter said the incident was one of two known to U.S. security officials.

The other occurred in Rome, though the date is unknown. Italian officials have not responded to inquiries for details.

Although the Naples-area incident happened more than two weeks ago, the public was first informed of it Friday through the story published in the base paper so as not to compromise the case after investigators got a lead, Navy officials said.

The suspicious vehicle is a 2000 Peugeot 406 sedan, dark gray-green and bearing the European Union license plate “M3516UY,” with an “E” in the upper right corner, similar to plates issued in Spain, according to the base paper. The NATO member’s spouse had managed to write down the tag.

“It’s difficult to say exactly what they were after,” Debbie Rocco, a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent, said in the printed account.

“They can be after money, or they may want to steal other property someone may be carrying in the car.”

The aggressors might have been after information, she said. “Military ID cards have Social Security numbers, insurance paperwork contains personal information. In the wrong hands, this information could lead to identity theft or your house being burgled.”

Rocco pointed out some ways drivers can detect a pullover is a scam:

Italian police usually travel by themselves or with one partner, not more than two per vehicle. “And it is not normal to see a woman driving a police vehicle,” she said.The car that pulled over the NATO member was unmarked and did not have a blue light, or any lights, attached to the hood of the car. “The light should not be sitting in the car, but attached to the hood,” Rocco said.Highway police usually are in uniform, and carry the signature red-and-white, hand-held “lollipop” signs used to stop or divert traffic. When not in use, the signs typically are tucked into their uniform boots.Suter, the head of NSA Naples Security, suggested if motorists doubt whether they are being stopped by legitimate police, they should continue driving to a safe spot, but reduce their speed and turn on emergency flashers in acknowledgment.

Motorists should call the Alarm Control Center to report suspicious behavior. The number, when called from within Italy, is 081-568-5638 or 081-568-5639.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now