NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police say a woman’s vehicle was stolen after she was rear-ended by a couple in another car last week in Queens.
The incident happened just before 2:30 p.m. last Tuesday in South Ozone Park. 74-year-old Rosalina Castromonte was driving in the area of 109th Avenue and 120th Street when police said her SUV was rear-ended by white, four-door sedan.
When Castromonte got out and tried to exchange information with the male driver, police said he became aggressive and wouldn’t let her write down his information.
That’s when police said another woman, who was a passenger inside the white car, got out and walked around to the driver’s seat of the car. Police said the man then shoved Rosalina aside and jumped into her SUV.
Both suspects then sped off in both vehicles, police said.
Rosalina says she’s been driving for nearly 30 years and has never been in an accident, not even a minor fender bender, until this happened last Tuesday.
“The way it happened to me really a surprise, in the middle of the day,” she told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.
She said she got out to check the damage following the minor accident.
“I say, well I have to call the police,” Rosalina said.
A nearby surveillance camera caught the man getting aggressive with Castromonte, preventing her from getting a good look at his license plate.
“The guy took the license plate and bent it in half so she couldn’t read it,” the victim’s neighbor Anne Bakalis said.
That’s when police say they fled, leaving Rosalina in the middle of the road.
Right before her car was hit, she said she was at the bank. She figures she was followed and targeted because of her age, because she was alone, had cash, and a new car.
“I was coming home from work same time,” neighbor Mark Bassoo told CBS2’s Reena Roy. “I see the accident and tell my wife and afterward the cops were there.”
Another neighbor who was too afraid to show her face fears that the male suspect lives nearby. She says a few weeks ago, he offered to help her find parking a block from where she already had a spot, warning she may get a ticket.
“He came to me and he said, ‘you can come to Linden and you can park at Linden Boulevard and I could move my car and give you parking’ and I was scared and locked my car door and drove away,” she said.
Her gut told her something seemed off.
“He always meandering around here,” the woman said.
Police said the next day they were able to track down the victim’s vehicle, but are still looking for the suspects.
Rosalina appears to have fallen victim to the so-called “bump and rob” scheme, which happened a week earlier in nearby Astoria. In that incident, police say the suspect and another man stole a 73-year-old’s car falsely accusing the victim of damaging their vehicle.
Now, knowing the staged crash scam is part of a larger trend, Rosalina is still having trouble sleeping.
“Well, I still feel nervous,” she said. “I still… a bad experience.”
Police describe the man as light-skinned with a slim build who was wearing a red shirt and blue jeans. They describe the woman also as light-skinned with black hair in a bun who was wearing a light-colored shirt and dark pants.
To avoid whats known as a “bump and rob,” experts recommend hiding expensive handbags and packages and being extra cautious especially if you have a high-end vehicle and you’re driving in a remote area.
If you do get hit or someone indicates a problem with your car but something seems suspicious, keep the doors locked and have the driver follow you to a nearby police station or busy area.
Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782), visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.