Hi Frugalistas! My earlier Paris tourist scams post has been very popular with readers and on social media. It’s also generated a lot of feedback, with many readers sharing their own experiences of scams and pickpockets in Paris. These are new Paris tourist scams (well, new for me anyway) so I definitely need to share. Remember, forewarned is forearmed!
More charity Paris tourist scams
Eoin shared two great charity scams that are definitely worth knowing about. You’ll note that one of them is also common around Lyon railway station. Given Lyon is a city where you are likely to need to change trains if you are heading to southern or eastern France, do be on the lookout there as well!
Another popular one in Paris, and in most major French train stations, is the charity scam. They approach you and ask you to donate money to the deaf, dumb and blind. If you sign it they’ll tell you the minimum “donation” is 5 euro. Then if you pay that they’ll talk to one of their “colleagues” and inform you that the minimum is actually ten euro. I got caught out with this one in Paris at the train station outside the entrance to the Louvre because I was on my own and made the mistake of looking like a tourist. I’ve also been asked to donate to the same thing about 4 or 5 times in Lyon train station. I’m fully sure by now they well know what ‘f!%* off’ means. One thing I’ve noticed about it is the signature and donation pages are always slanted so the text goes from top right to bottom left rather than being centred.
Also be wary of ‘Africa day’. Not my proudest moment being caught out on that one. Although the little carved giraffes are absolutely adorable.
I suppose the question is, if you buy something you like (such as Eoin’s giraffes), is it really a scam?
Paris tourist scams at Charles de Gaulle airport
These are definitely new for me, but Marvina, who works at Charles de Gaulle knows exactly what to look out for:
Young girls pretending to be deaf, asking tourists for donations. These girls are vicious thugs. When airline staff see tourists being scammed in front of their eyes and try to warn them, the staff are verbally and physically attacked. The airport authority often make announcements over the loud speakers to warn people not to give in to their solicitations.
Terminal 2 (which is divided into the smaller terminals A-F) is where many US and Australian flights arrive and depart from, so for frugal first class travel readers, this one is gold! A variation on the destitute teacher scam…….
There is a very well dressed man who hangs out, often in terminal E, pretending to be stuck at the airport because he doesn’t have enough money to change his ticket and will ask strangers for money to help him out. Police can’t arrest him because people give him the money, he’s not stealing. He is said to earn 1000 euros a day doing this.
Finding your way into organised crime
Another relates to money laundering around Louis Vuitton on the Champs Elysees. A group of people, usually of Asian descent, will approach you to ask if you will buy something from LV for them as they have customs issues in getting the product back home. They will offer you real cash to go and buy it for them. They are money laundering cash for real articles that they can then re-sell for “new” cash.
Simple lesson – do not buy things for other people, whether you are outside Louis Vuitton, or anywhere else in Paris for that matter.
Other reader tourist scam experiences
A number of readers also wrote to share their own personal experiences of the scams I spoke about in my earlier post.
Samantha’s husband had the rather unpleasant experience of an attempted pickpocketing on the Metro:
Thanks for all these stories and advice on ways to avoid being scammed. I have a story that happened one time while my husband and I were on the Metro in Paris. A French men put his hand in my husband’s back pocket when trying to pick pocket him (apparently he wasn’t very good), and my husband grabbed his arm but he mumbled a “Pardon” and then ran off. Luckily my husband didn’t have anything in his pocket for just this reason. Just wanted to share. Thanks again for the post and for letting me share my story.
Being a smart traveller, Nat found the “ring scam” rather amusing……
Ah, the ring scam. I experienced this one three times on the one bridge! And to add to the drama, each guy did a cute little slight of hand trick where he pretended to pick the ring up off the ground. Hilariously, I was already wearing a silver ring of exactly the same design. By the third time, I just laughed at the guy and he looked confused!
While it may be that the “ring scam” is getting a bit “over supplied”, my advice is to be alert to possible variations. I’ve read about similar scams relating to leather goods in other cities for example. In fact, be alert to ANYONE wanting to sell you something that appears to be of value.
Fellow blogger Jan reported seeing the Destitute Teacher elsewhere, so she clearly gets around!
We experienced the teacher who ran out of money I think in Seville. At first we wondered if she was genuine, but then we saw her approaching other tourists other days.
Another blogger colleague, Anda had some good advice for fellow American travellers:
Quite astonishing! I was aware of some of these scams, but I have to say the “petition” one seems ingenious. There are so many groups like these in the States, asking for your support in signing their petition. It’s only that here they are not up to stealing your money, that’s why so many American tourists would fall for it.
The thing to remember about this is that when you are in a foreign country, things that seem pretty “normal” are not always the same as at home.
I’d like to thank all my readers for their generosity in sharing their own experiences. Do you have any Paris tourist scams you think we need to know about? Let’s make the list even bigger!