Scams & Annoyances in Paris

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Scams, Annoyances and What to Avoid in Paris

 

This is a section of my website that I don’t enjoy writing about but my website exists in order to aid you in achieving the best experience possible, without all the research and footwork when savouring, exploring and discovering Paris.

Therefore this also means making you aware of a few scams and annoyances that you may or may not come across.

There is nothing to fear or become paranoid about but forewarned is forearmed and knowledge is power.

 

Below I have compiled a list of a few scams, accompanied by tips and tricks, which once you are aware of, hopefully you can avoid and get on with enjoying Paris unscathed.

The Gold Ring Scam:

This would have to be the most illogical scam in existence and yet people fall for it.

More often than not this scam takes place on the Pont des Arts bridge, the pedestrian bridge that leads from the left bank to the Louvre on the right bank although there are reports of it happening elsewhere.

A woman will approach you with what appears to be a gold wedding band claiming that you have dropped it and offers to return it to you with a big smile on her face. How gracious of her.  After you insist that it isn’t yours, she wants you to have it anyway.

Here is the catch, to start with it is not a valuable gold ring but a gold plated piece of junk, which now she wants money for because out of the goodness of her heart, she found it and returned it to you.

I told you it doesn’t make sense. No matter how much you try to convince her it is not yours or that you don’t want it, she won’t give up without an easy fight and let me tell you, from experience, they can get quite aggressive. They also work in groups and have a caretaker male nearby watching everything.

 

Don’t make eye contact, don’t take the ring and don’t engage in conversation with them. A sharp no and keep walking is the advice normally given, although when I was approached last year for the very first time, I simply roared with laughter, she didn’t like that one bit and spat at me and called me a few unsavoury words in English as she stormed off to her caretaker.

The Clipboard Scammers:

These scammers mostly hang out around the big monuments; normally the Eiffel Tower and the forecourt of the Notre Dame Cathedral working in groups and scatter like rats the moment the police arrive.

They fall into two categories; the ‘sympathy vote’ and the ‘petition activist’.

paris scammers clipboard scam

Looking official with a clipboard tucked under their arm they will approach you, asking if you speak English, of course, if English is your first language you are likely to automatically answer without thinking.

The other is where they will simply shove a clipboard at you and ask you to read the document attached. 

The ‘sympathy vote’ will have a heart felt story written on a piece of paper explaining how they don’t have a job or money and can you donate to their cause.

The ‘petition activist’ will have a list of names and signatures, encouraging you to join the fake cause and expect a ‘donation’. Simply signing and not donating will make for an angry scammer.

 

Don’t take the board from them, don’t engage in conversation and don’t give them anything, it is a scam. Again a sharp no or what I find even better still is simply to ignore them and pass them by. If you can avoid responding to their ‘do you speak English’ catch, that helps all the more. Don’t try to be clever feigning another language, the chances are they might speak several languages.

The String Bracelet Guys:

The String Bracelet scammers, usually loiter around the base of Montmartre, around the entrance to the funiculaire (the lift going up the hill), on the steps leading up to Sacre Coeur and around the Basilica itself.

Normally men, in groups and can be quite aggressive and persistent. 

Their scam is to get the braided string bracelet onto you wrist. They are experienced and swift and when you can’t get it off, they want money.

 

Don’t engage or make eye contact and don’t let them at your arm. Also be aware that if they do manage to get it on your arm or you engage with them, their mates will gather around while you are distracted and pick-pocketing could take place.

Ignore them and walk passed them if they persist a sharp and firm no and keep moving.

Aggression or smart talking is not the key in any of these cases, your best weapon is a firm no or ignoring them altogether.

Slight of Hand Magic Trick:

scammers paris slight of hand magic trick

You have no doubt seen this scam anywhere around the world in it’s various forms.

A ball or a coin under an upturned cup and the trick is to work out where it is after the magician moves them around. Of course, this is a standard magic trick and no matter what, you will not win.

A crowd will gather around to watch or gamble and some of the crowd will also be accomplices. When I took this shot on Pont des Arts, I observed these guys for quite some time. They were all in the gang and had spotters at either end of the bridge.

 

This situation is a bad spot to be for two reasons, you will not win and if you did manage to guess where the token under the cup or piece of cardboard hides, their accomplice will make sure you are distracted somehow, so you will still lose.

Another reason to avoid even simply being a spectator is as the crowd thickens you are leaving yourself vulnerable to pick-pockets.

There is so many wonderful things to see in Paris and this is not one of them.

 

Street Sellers

The street sellers are not scammers and quite frankly I don’t even find them annoying.

Normally they hang around the Trocadero where you get one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower, in the Tuileries Gardens and opposite the Louvre near the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.

They generally sell Eiffel Towers in varying sizes, which are either thread onto a large ring or they lay them out on a blanket where they can quickly bundle them up and run if the police arrive.

This practice is illegal, they don’t have a hawkers licence. If you do want to buy souvenirs from them make sure you barter well but with a friendly tone and you will probably get three small key-rings for around 1 euro.

 

If you are not interested, generally one simple non merci to them and they will leave you alone and walk away.

Automatic Money Dispensers:

This one is not only a scam but theft and one to be very careful of.

What these opportunists do is prey on unsuspecting tourists and Parisians withdrawing money. Normally a group of young men who will quickly distract you just before your money spits out, they grab the cash and run.

 

A number of money dispensing machines are located within banks and post offices and this is probably the safest place to withdraw cash. Try to avoid machines located in quiet streets and as always, be weary of your surroundings.

Adopt a Safe Routine

Another act of theft that tourists and locals fall prey to is mobile phones and cameras left lying around.

If you are sitting on a café terrace don’t leave your bag unattended, or your phone or camera gear lying around on the table for a passerby to grab and run.

Don’t carry your mobile phone in your back pocket, especially when you are in places with high volumes of people where you can be jostled. The crowded metro is the perfect place for pick-pockets to relieve you of your valuable items.

Avoid using your mobile phone on the metro. It is not unusual for a thief to snatch a mobile phone from a commuter’s hand right before the train doors close.

This post is to inform rather than scare the living daylights out of you. If you are aware of what the current scams are, have an idea of where they are located and what to look out for and how to react, chances are you won’t fall victim.

 

Tourists who travel on the metro with an expensive camera hanging from their neck, their wallet sticking out of their back pocket and fiddling on their mobile phone while talking loudly in their given language are prime targets. They may as well put a large sign on their forehead stating look at me, I am in a foreign country and I have loads of valuables waiting to be lifted.

Common sense and keeping your wits about you and a good safe routine with valuables is always a good practice.

I hope that this has been useful and armed with you with some solid tips for safe and happy travels.

 

If you have found this information useful please thank me by leaving a comment or following me on facebook, your feedback encourages me to continue to keep this site up to date. Merci.

Now let’s explore some of my secret places:  

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6 Responses to Scams & Annoyances in Paris

  • Ro Clague

    An interesting read. We have seen most of these scams and a few others as well…..not all in France. We were nearly savaged in Rome because I recognised two female pickpockets on the Rome bus…unfortunately they had two male minders who did VERY threatening gestures towards me. I am surprised by how many tourists still get caught up in the scams.

    • parisadele

      Hi Ro
      yes scams seem to be alive and well everywhere and that is the very reason I added this information to my website in the hope that people read it before heading over to Paris. Thanks for your comment.

  • LL

    I have been scammed last monday (26.07.17)
    I was at metro station “Nation” on ticket machine when a young a friendly looking african man approach and offer help. I let him enter my ticket request and it would not take my 40euros bills, so he used his Credit Card, he handed me 6 tickets to Marne La Vallee for 38 euros I paid him cash. As he walked away I checked the tickets they were t reduced tickets not Marne La Valle tickets.
    Now I feel stupid for having trusted him

    • parisadele

      Hi Liliana,
      I am so sorry to hear about your misfortune with the scammer and thank you for taking the time to leave a comment, I am sure others will appreciate to have knowledge about this too. Please don’t feel silly for trusting him, it is our nature to think that people are kind with good intentions. I hope that it didn’t ruin your visit to Paris. Thanks once again for taking the time to leave a comment, I appreciate it.

  • Mee

    Dear Parisadele,

    Some of the scams are new to me and others are not, so thanks for highlighting all of them. We visit Paris often and have been pick-pocketed once before. We are now very cautious, though one can never be 100% impervious to such situations. We still encounter aggressive situations such as these even though we talk and act like locals.

    Thank you for writing the article which I will share with my friends and family.

    • parisadele

      Hi Mee,

      thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment and sorry to hear about your pick-pocketing experience and yes, you are right, all you can really do is keep your wits about you without letting it rule your life. I am glad to hear that you have found this information useful but hopefully you wont personally come across these scams. Good idea to share with anyone who is heading over to Europe and especially for first time travellers.  Thanks once again for taking the time to leave a message, that is really thoughtful of you. Here is to a scam free time in Paris!

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