Hi Frugalistas! Tourist scams in Paris are a fact of life, as they are in many parts of Europe. My readers have reported them, and travel bloggers also know them well. I have personally “experienced” (but never been caught out) by several Paris scams. This is what you need to know about Paris tourist scams, and how to avoid them:
The Ring Scam in Paris
The Paris ring scam is probably the most “famous” (if that is the right word) Paris scam. It is very prevalent around the Eiffel Tower, and is probably the most common of the Eiffel Tower scams, particularly in the Champs de Mars approaches to the Tower – my record is three attempts on a single walk up the Champs de Mars.
A man will approach you holding out a gold ring. He will ask you if you have lost it. When you say no, he will then point out the obvious quality and value of the ring. He will then offer to sell it to you for what appears to be a very reasonable price.
What makes it a scam? The ring is not gold. The ring is worth nothing. You’ve been robbed.
The Petition Scam in Paris
The Paris petition scam is more widespread in tourist areas of Paris. I’ve seen it around the Champs Elysees and frequently around the Pont des Arts near the Louvre. But be alert to it elsewhere.A small group of young people (usually teenage girls) will approach you to sign a petition. As one of them explains the “cause” – ie distracts you, another in the group will pickpocket you, or relieve you of any convenient valuable.
The only “cause” you are supporting is their theft of your valuables.
The Café Scams in Paris
There are variations to the café scam, but they are all based on the same premise – distraction. Sitting outside in a Paris café is, of course, one of the quintessential Paris experiences. One you should definitely take part in, and enjoy.
But beware….. a handsome, well dressed stranger will approach you and place his newspaper on the café table, and strike up a conversation. These Frenchmen are so friendly, aren’t they?
The only problem is, this Frenchman will pick up your phone, camera or wallet (whatever you’ve conveniently left on the café table of any value in fact) with his newspaper, and quickly make his escape before you realise…..
The variation on this scam is for the clever tourist who hasn’t left anything of value on their table. Instead the handsome Frenchman, or cute French girl strikes up a conversation. So what’s the scam? While engrossing you in a conversation his or her accomplice relieves you of your bag or backpack that you’ve left on the ground beside you.
You only realise when you stand up to leave, and they are long gone. Yep, you’ve been scammed.
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Pickpockets in Paris
Pickpockets are certainly not unique to Paris. Every city worth its salt has them. In Paris, there are certain places they can be guaranteed. On the RER train between Paris and Charles de Gaulle. On Metro lines where the main tourist attractions are located. Then around and inside every popular tourist attraction – the more crowded the better. Whether it’s around the Eiffel Tower (yes again), queuing for the Louvre, or even inside, yes, inside the Louvre, there will be pickpockets.
The Destitute Teacher Scam
I’ve never seen this scam documented anywhere. But given I’ve experienced it twice now, I am sure it is a scam.
On the rue de Rivoli you will be walking along quietly minding your own business. A middle aged lady who looks like any other tourist will approach you and ask if you speak English. She will have an American accent. She will explain to you that she is a teacher from New York (because we all love teachers, don’t we?). She will explain to you that she has run out of money, and needs some Euros to tide her over. Can you help?
The first time it happened to me I didn’t think anything of it. Just some tourist run out of money. But the second occasion? This is a scam………
How to avoid tourist scams in Paris
Knowledge is key in avoiding the Paris scammers. Any good guide book will explain the latest and greatest. Do your research, make sure you know about the Paris tourist scams and make sure everyone in your group understands what to look out for (even your children) – knowledge and plenty of sets of eyes peeled will hold you in good stead.
While it’s somewhat obvious, don’t leave valuables on café tables. If you are sitting outside in a café, particularly in more tourist related areas, don’t sit in the front row closest to the street or on the end of a row. Yes, it is more difficult for you to get in and out of, but those other tables and chairs will protect you and your bags. Put your phone, wallet and camera away and keep your bags close by and as out of sight as possible.
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Look like you fit in. Learn how not to look like a tourist in Paris and try not to scream “tourist” as you walk down the street. Backpacks, bumbags/fanny packs and cameras round your neck are easy pickings for professionals.
Be guarded with strangers. Yes, just like Mummy always said. Keep your distance. Keep your hand on your bag. And don’t give money to people you don’t know, or accept “gifts” from strangers. It’s not mean. It’s just sensible.
How to avoid pickpockets in Paris
Keep your eyes and hands on your bags on public transport and in crowded public areas. Even small children can be taught to put their backpacks on their fronts in busy areas, and to keep their bags on their laps, with their hand on the bag on crowded trains. Remind each other to do it before you board the train, or enter crowded tourist areas to look after each other. Be careful when you are reading your Paris tourist map, as looking distracted can make you a target.
Travel light. You really don’t need a big day pack or a large handbag. A small bag, kept close in front of you, with your hand on the bag at all times, is a safe way to travel. Keep valuables well hidden on your body. Don’t put wallets, passports, phones or any other valuables in back pockets or any other obvious place.
Personally I like to travel with just a cross body bag, slung in front of me, rather than on the side. I walk with my hand on the bag to keep it close to me at all times.
Careful travellers may prefer to invest in theft proof gear for credit cards or passports. Tshirts (and even underwear!) with hidden pockets, and theft proof bags are also readily available:
Choose theft proof clothing here
Do you know any other Paris scams we should be made aware of? What are your favorite tips for avoiding scams and scammers in Paris?
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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.
budget jan says
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. The petition scam reminded me of when in Kyoto we were continually approached by groups of teenagers wanting us to complete a short survey. We did so whenever asked and it wasn’t a scam, just students practicing on tourists. Thanks for the tip offs, every country has their scammers.
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 sleight 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!
The petition one has been around for a number of years, Anda – I recall seeing it about 6 or 7 years ago. All scammers rely on people’s gullibility or naivity – that’s why knowing the scams is so important.
Yes, you’re right Nat, they do often do a little sleight of hand to “pick” the ring up!
I’ve only seen it in Paris, so I’m fascinated that you saw it in Seville, Jan. It obviously is a “thing”.
Samantha @ Our Traveling Blog says
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 husbands 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. Thanks again.
Maybe the “destitute” teacher was really trying to practice her English & thought that she could score a couple of bucks by pretending to be broke?
Hung Thai says
Excellent tip on the cafes scam. I often tend to throw my phone on the table whenever I down because it’s a burden in my pockets all day.
Hung Thai says
Also, are there other scams you know about in other parts of Europe. I’m planning a trip over there rather soon so that information would be great!
Eoin M says
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’ve been through Lyon station multiple times and have never seen this one. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.
So many scams, so little time…..
In Rome, watch out for women thrusting their babies into your arms – an accomplice will pick your pockets.
In Istanbul, some shoe cleaners are scam artists.
In other cities, the ball in the cup is a common scam.
Assume there will be a pick pocket in every crowded bus, train and tourist area.
That’s the thing, isn’t it? So easy to do without thinking………..
The destitute teacher was American so not convinced she was practicing her English………….
Realistically you have to assume that every crowded Metro train has a pickpocket on it and plan accordingly. Good preparation!
Marvina Benzekri says
I work at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Here are some very well know scams at the airport:
– 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.
– There is a very well dresses 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.
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.
Amy Trumpeter says
Thanks so much for this, very eye opening. I didn’t have any problems in Paris, but it is good to be aware of what could happen for the next time. I have heard of other travellers getting pick-pocketed in Paris and Barcelona.
Great post! I also tend to put my phone on the table after looking at photos. And I’m sure a friendly, handsome Frenchman could easily disarm me. 🙂
Thanks Marvina – what a fantastic eye opener! The man who can’t change is ticket is a variation on the American teacher scam, but those “deaf” girls sound awful!
Not so much a scam, but definitely a shady deal going on Kerri. Thanks for the advice on this one!
It’s very easy to do isn’t it? I tend to do it at home too.
Touch wood, I’ve never had an attempted pickpocketing either (well, at least not that I know of), but being well armed is the best defence.
When I was in Paris, one of the guys in our group was approached by a couple claiming to be Canadian and that they had run out of euros and needed some to tie them over, similar to the American for you. He gave them a small amount only for them to ask for more! Also, another one was in the area surrounding Sacre Cœur. A group of men would be trying to sell bracelets and would grab your wrist and tie a bracelet on it then ask for the money for the bracelet that’s now tied to your wrist, and when you would refuse to pay for it, they would claim that you are stealing from them!
Yes, Kyra, I’ve heard about the friendship bracelet scam, but not in Paris – great pick up!
I had an interesting encounter in Rome three years ago. Not sure if it was a scam or not – definitely something was up. I was spending the day on my own, meeting my boyfriend later at our hotel. (I was 50 at the time – not an inexperienced traveller.) I was in the Piazza Foro Traiano, resting in the shade after walking up from the Colosseum. I listened to a musician for a bit, and then was approached by an older man, nicely dressed, handsome, who started a conversation with me. He was nice, but persistent. He eventually got around to asking if I wanted to have a dinner with him later. He was VERY persistent when I said I had plans for the rest of the day, told him I was with my boyfriend and NOT available for dinner. He even asked about the next day! I finally shook him off but later noticed he was trying it with any woman of any age he could speak with all around the square. I never found out what the angle was but it did feel suspicious. Maybe he was just a nice man who wanted to speak English, but I got a creepy feeling from it. Always trust the creepy feelings!
What a great story Paula. It may have been a scam. There are many scams involving restaurants in Italy, and also many scams involving men or women taking tourists for drinks/meals at places that turn out to exhorbitantly expensive.
I agree with you to always trust your instinct!
Leaving Paris at the airport We were going to carry on our bag onto the plane and they forced us to check it. They did not give us time to get our valuables out and by the time we got to our next destination we realize that our back was nowhere to be found it had been mysteriously left in Paris. When we got it back the next day we realize we had been robbed. They took my wedding ring some cash we had as well as a souvenir from the Eiffel Tower. Watch out for Air France because they steal from your checked bags!!
Oh, dear, how terrible! So important not to leave valuables in checked luggage.
Watch out for people asking for directions too. 4 of us were walking in Paris and were approached by a young man pulling a suitcase. He had a paper in his hand and asked if we knew where this address was as he pointed at the paper. All 4 of us leaned in to look. I happened to know that the street written was behind him, I told him that and stepped back. That was when I saw his buddy. I think they were hoping one of us would open our bag to pull out a map and they would take advantage.
Great advice Peg – it’s important to be observant and aware of your surroundings even in seemingly simple situations
The Bracelette thing happened to my By the Eiffel Tower. These men approached us and I said “No Thanks, I don’t want to buy one” and they said “oh no problem, let me see your had, no problem” and they made us stand there and have these strings tied into bracelettes, making it seem like they were nice people just tying bracelettes for fun. I tried to walk away after saying thanks and they wanted money from us… I knew I got scammed, and all I had on me was 20 Euro and they seemed to have men at distances looking out for them, or maybe to intimidate unknowing tourists into paying for this crap, so I gave that to him, and he took it and stood there while my friend was paying the other guy for hers. I asked for change and he said no. I was sooooo pissed, and a little scared by all the men in the distance selling the same bracelettes. After that happened and decided to just say no and walk away from more of the approaching people later on.
Yep, don’t let people tie anything on you, or “give” you anything. Ever.
The rose is another common scam similar to the bracelet one. A man walks up to the lady, offers her a rose, which, if you are unaware, accept. He then badgers the man for payment.
As my husband works for the government, we were given quite a long list of what to be aware of. It became a game to check each one of the list. And yes, we ticked them all off!
Yes! I’ve heard of the rose elsewhere, but must admit I’ve never seen it in Paris. Having said that – I think it’s a good basic rule to never accept any “gift” from anyone……………
Yes the gold ring- I was wondering… Until it happened 3xs in a week. Just said no, kept walking, never got asked to buy one. I thought it was a distraction one too. Hands on bags and keep moving on!
Great advice Lanie. Don’t look, just keep walking and hands on bag!
In Rome Termini station , young girls will offer to help you get to your platform ( as if you couldn’t figure it out yourself). When you arrive they ask for 1 euro for the ‘ service’ . They often dress like staff as well and hang out to see if you need help checking your ticket of buying your ticket – to get your credit card information. they have pens with cameras in them , and when you go to give them a euro to leave you alone, the platform has another person watching where you put your wallet .They often will take you to the wrong platform, because they want to get you to the platform that is busy. On the platform, they have more men dressed like staff trying to offer to help with your luggage- they will pretend to put it in s secure place, help you find your seat,while his buddy takes the bag off the train . They also do the same thing when getting off the train.
Rome also has groups on the subways . Out if nowhere, a crowd of people will try to rush on. Somehow a fight breaks out. While you watch, all crowded in, you will be pickpocketed.
If you are going with a group, watch for this one – a school group I was with in Italy experienced a pickpocket problem. A lady walked directly through the middle of our group (instead of how most people allow a whole group to pass the street/sidewalk together). Immediately one of the older students told everyone to check for their valuables and sure enough, he was right – one of the girls had her wallet missing out of her purse, which had been zipped shut. He ran after the woman and was able to retrieve the wallet, but it was definitely a close call!
This is another good one to add to the list Sarah, and not one I was familiar with. Thanks so much for sharing!
Yes, the Termini Station is notorious with all sorts of scams. This is one reason why I always recommend people travel very light, so you never need a porter. In stations in Italy you need to stamp your ticket as you enter the platform – it’s very important to plan ahead and understand how the train system works, so you don’t need help.
This is wonderful advice so thank you for sharing Toni.
I recently was in Rome and had no trouble at the Termini station. Perhaps the Military with machine guns standing overlokking the entrance was a deterent.
I suspect you may be right Jeni.
I’ve been to Paris twice and have been approached both times. I definitely remember the teenage Roma looking girls with a map and a piece of cardboard. They approached my husband (as we had our bags with us + kids) at an intersection. I ran up and began screaming NO at them and they took off. He laughed hard about that one.
Another time, I was alone with my children– over by the Eiffel, they were sitting and resting while I checked a map to find our way to the Metro. Roma looking woman kept coming to me (I forget the reason why) and would not take “non” for an answer. Finally I unleashed a very loud verbal tirade that made her leave us alone.
My biggest tip is to NOT LOOK LIKE A TOURIST. Both times I was approached were when I had baggage or a map out. Here’s a hint to know if you look like a tourist: Do all people immediately begin speaking English to you? Then…yes, you look like one.
PS– Good rule of thumb, most Europeans are not “friendly” like Americans. They typically do not stop to chat. If they do, assume they’re trying to scam you.
You are so right about trying to not look like a tourist. I think your observation about being approached when you were distracted, or burdened with extra luggage etc is spot on. If you have your luggage, or are carrying shopping, wrangling kids, you need to be particularly alert. Great advice and thanks for sharing your experience!
I usually travel to Paris in the fall/winter/very early spring, so a lovely raincoat is part of my daily gear. I wear my cross body LV bag under my raincoat and keep my gloved hand on it even in the street. I observed early in my travels how locals dressed and acted. Parisien women wear gloves– lovely, well-fitting gloves. They wear raincoats like a scarf, tossed casually over their shoulders, not buttoned up to the neck and cinched tight. They carry a small cross body bag or hand-held clutch, not a giant tote stuffed with thermoset and croissants pilfered from their morning breakfasts. When I carry my big LV tote, and I usually do, I buy a baguette (1-2 Euros) and stash it in my bag sticking out. Looks very ‘local’, and I’m rarely approached by scammers. Btw, I keep my baguette for the whole of my stay. By day 3, it’s hard as a rock, so no crumbs!
One scam on the metro late at night–try not to be on it past 11p.m.–are ‘musicians’ who get on and perform, then try to intimidate you into giving them cash. I keep a few Euros handy to give street buskers, but these thugs on the metro (not the ones busking in the metro stations) are highly aggressive. Tell them to bugger off, they sucked, their music was horrid, whatever. I saw one woman merely raise her eyebrow and say “absolutely NOT!”
The best prevention is to walk with purpose, and look at anyone who approaches you in the eye. Accept nothing on the street. Would you buy a ring from some character you bumped into on the street at home? ‘Course not. So don’t do so away from home. Learn to say, “It’s UGLY!” In whatever is the local parlance. That sends the scammers of bad merch away. And keep only a copy of your passport with you, with the original in the hotel safe (not the room safe!)
I love your idea of carrying a baguette – a Euro or so secret weapon! I’m also a big fan for not looking at people. Unless it’s pouring with rain or dark I usually wear sun glasses – I do find they help. thanks for sharing such great advice and experience
I just came back from Paris. We were running late for our timed entry for the Eiffel Tower, so I called for a cab. They sent a very nice, big, black Mercedes to pick us up. As soon as we stepped out of the car we were offered roses for the beautiful ladies by bunches of guys. We said no and moved on. When we were walking down the Champs de Mars an older Roma woman stopped my daughter and started asking her for directions or something. I yelled at my daughter, who is 23, to stop talking to her. My daughter was so mad at me, but I said even if she really did need directions we have no idea where anything is. We were constantly asked if we spoke English. We always said no, in English, and they left us alone. Saw the petition girls at the Arc de Triomphe, we ignored them and kept walking. They left us alone. Your tips are really good!
Thanks very much Martha. Flowers are another trick – unless you want to be over charged for something you don’t want, or pickpocketed by an accomplice they are best avoided too! I honestly think ignoring and keeping walking is the best policy in most places – as you discovered.
We were in Paris in 2015 and witnessed the petition scam first hand outside Note Dame. Just as you described. Thankfully I realized very quickly what was going on. ..or at least that it was odd to be asking obvious foreigners to sign a petition entirely written in French. I said, Non, merci, and tried to walk away. They kept following us for a minute talking, so I clarified with a FIRM Non!…and told my family to start walking. The continued to keep following and talking fire a minute, but gave up quickly.
You did the right thing Kerry – a stern “non”, no eye contact and just keep walking.
I experienced the same scam on a bridge over the Seine but since I wasn’t wearing gold, I knew I hadn’t dropped it, as he said. I told him I knew he was a crook and if he didn’t go away, I’d call the gendarme. He moved on to others.
Yes, the bridges across the Seine (especially the Pont des Arts) near the Louvre are also common scam sites. Good job with your response.
It wasn’t in Paris, but Athens, two guys asked me to take their picture with his phone. They weren’t tourists, but friendly Greeks (Freeks?) Next some other stranger takes our picture, the three of us, at one of the Freeks request with my phone. I think the picture taker was not in on it. Next one of the Freeks would like the picture of the three of us that someone took with my phone. I offer him my email address, trusting soul that I am, but he claims not to know how to email!! Instead he wants to bluetooth in to my phone (yeah that is much simpler than sending a picture). I’m sure his phone had some software to get into android pay, etc.
Oooh, I haven’t heard of this one Bruce. This is a great one for people to know about so thanks for sharing.
Carol Lamont says
Oh so many scams so little time!
One we found recently in Montmontre was a guy with paper and scissors wanted my husband and I to stop and watch him cut out some fancy design while no doubt some accomplice was waiting to pick our pockets. A firm NO and keep walking will work just fine.
I always make sure I had all my Metro transfers worked out ahead of time and I always try to make eye contact with those around on the Metro. At least this way, if there is a potential pickpocket in the bunch they’ll be more likely to target someone who hasn’t stared them down.
I have seen the petition scam at the Eiffel Tower and my husband had his wallet lifted on the RER just as we were getting off at Gare du Nord. So yes there were some lessons learned by him from that experience but looking as much like a local and less like a tourist is probably the best one.
I also perfer to hire a private car to take us from and to CDG. Pricey but worry-free.
I love your idea of having your Metro route sorted out in advance Carol. Looking like you know where you are going on the Metro is a key strategy to avoiding scammers and pick pockets. The RER train line from the CDG is notorious for pickpockets and scammers, so for those who cannot afford a car from the airport being alert and organised is important.
You sound like you’ve really got those scammers sorted – even if you’ve learned through bitter experience.
Sophie Nadeau says
I’ve seen the American lady on Rue de Rivoli about five times now as well! I wasn’t sure if it was a scam until the umpteenth time!
Yes, Sophie, she is quite convincing. It’s only when you see her for the “umpteenth time” as you put it that you realise she is not as she seems……..
Oh yes I also experience the ring scam on my way to the Eiffel. Then my daughter was caught with the ball and glass game also near the Eiffel. At Gare du Nord some man try to sell metro tickets to people standing in a queue to buy tickets. At close look it was used tickets. Be carefull.
I’ve not seen the metro tickets scam, so thanks for the heads up Betsie. If you getting off the Eurostar, you need to beware!
Don’t forget the bracelet scam! I’ve only since this at Sacre Coeur, but they’re EVERYWHERE! Men (usually) will try to put a friendship-type bracelet around your wrist as if it’s free, and once it’s on, they expect payment. My tip is to always go up Montmartre using a back street, and then once I’m on the top, I head over to the church.
Thanks for the post! I’ve lived in Paris for three years but had never heard of the desolate teacher one!
I have seen this scam in Madrid 8 years ago (they tried it on me, but I could sense that something was fishy and kept my hands on my bag during the whole conversation)
Jane Roberts says
I first encountered the ring scam in Toronto, Canada. I told the guy it wasn’t mine, he could sell it. His reply was that he was illegal here and could not. Well, not my problem said I, and walked away.
On my next visit to Paris, I was met with the same scam. I laughed and laughed and laughed!
Goodness, the ring scam goes intercontinental! I didn’t know that.
Yes, the bracelet scam is often written about, but I must admit I haven’t seen it for ages. The teacher is fairly new, yes.
Holly - Choosy Traveler says
Quite an education between the article and the comments, so many scams! I spent the summer agape at the number of women wandering around public places in my city with their giant iphones sticking out of the back pocket of their shorts. Made what I thought were my common sense safety precautions feel like crazy overkill 😉
Its common sense, really. You wouldnt give into some guy selling a ring or to hand over money to a teacher. thats ridiculous. I have seen the petition signing attempt at eiffel. but lets be honest about appearances so people know. theyre gypsies. can spot them everywhere in most european countries. just avoid them completely. no eye contact, do not engage in conversation, etc.
A phone in a back pocket would last 5minutes in the tourist zones of Paris I would suggest………………
Yes, Britt a lot of it is just common sense, but obviously these people make a living, so there are enough people out there who fall for them. I follow your advice of no eye contact (unless it is raining I always wear sunglasses) and not engaging in conversation – it’s the most practical thing to do
may walder says
outside pompidou I encountered the “deaf girls” and they are very convincing. there were two of them… it was sort of like the petition scam, they had a piece of paper with names and emails to help and it said that they want our information and asked us for donations. my family member took out his wallet to give them a euro and one of them reached inside very violently and took out all of his money. they they ran off and joined a really big group of teens, they pretended that because they are deaf they can’t understand us. they were very young (maybe 15 at most) and it was not a large sum so we just let it go because we didn’t want it to ruin our day.
I had a camera(brand new -Christmas gift!) stolen from my backpack while the clever accomplices talked to me about being careful of pick pockets! The cheek!!
The free gift scam also happens Nandi Fiji. Invited into gift shop for Kava and to initiate you are asked to wear ” shark tooth necklace which is said to be from legendary tribal chief” After the Kava you are then pressured to buy necklace( most likely completely fake) for an exhorbitant price. I got away with very firm no thanks but I enjoyed the Kava experience.
I have never been overseas but my husband and I are considering a trip to France and maybe Italy but all these scams make me uneasy. Do you still feel safe in these cities or do you feel that the scammers are dangerous?
Great pick up Bob – thanks for alerting my many Aussie and Kiwi readers about this one
Ooooh Liz, how terrible. This is why I stick to sunglasses on, eyes straight ahead and try hard not speak to strangers in the street
Thanks for sharing your experience May, and I’m glad you were able to put what happened to you into perspective. Paris is a wonderful city, but it’s still not pleasant when these sorts of quite violent attacks happen
Hi Amanda, this is an excellent question. I never feel unsafe in Europe, but that is because I am informed and make sensible choices. I have these two posts that may help you build the confidence to travel in Europe:
While the posts are aimed at female solo travellers, I think you will also find them helpful
Helen Marie says
This happened to us at Sacre Coeur. I didn’t fall for it but my mom did.
Has anyone had anything taken from a room safe? I always use it here & abroad and (knock on wood) never had an incident — do people use the hotel safe regularly?
Hi Jill, my husband is a compulsive safe user all over the world, and touch wood, we’ve never had a problem. I have heard stories though….
Andy Strote says
Didn’t see a mention of the “fake argument” scam which we saw outside a Metro station in Paris. As we got out of the entrance, there was a group of people standing nearby. Immediately a very loud argument broke out. There was some pushing and shoving…. The temptation is to stop and watch for a moment. Don’t! Just a distraction for the pickpockets coming up behind you.
We’ve experienced many of the scams others have noted including the ring (3 times on one walk), the petitions, the “do you speak English”, the bracelet, etc.
A tip for ladies… just when you think it makes sense not to have your purse on the cafe table to avoid a snatch and run, you hang it over your chair back. Mistake! Put it in your lap.
We love Paris, have been several times, but keep our radar active.
Informative post Jo, good job. I had never heard of the café or the teacher scams before… Good to know. When you mentioned that good travel guides will mention scams and how to avoid them, I did an internal “Phew!” … I just published one (Paris 3 Days No Stress, Amazon) and do touch on this aspect. I also mention what I call “the shell game” … (find the ball under one of the three overturned bowls that they mix up)… The fact that there’s always someone there ready to eagerly put down 50-100€ (an accomplice to “seed” passers-by) and that they scatter when the police are near just scream SCAM!
This happened to us, too. There was a group of young ladies wanting us to sign a petition near Pont des Arts. At first, the girl who had (somewhat aggressively) approached me pretended to be deaf. However, when I refused to sign and (probably stupidly) asked her what I was signing for, she suddenly spoke to me, in a manner that indicated she understood our whole conversation. She was obviously frustrated with me.
Yes, they are very common, and very aggressive.
Be aware of the http://www.parisianist.com website! It is a scam! Do not book any thickets via this website. They will take your debit card details, will not send you any tickets and will keep taking money from your bank account! The scammer e-mail address is email@example.com.
Thank you Mo. I just checked and that website appears to no longer be operational, however, I am leaving the information here for future reference.
Thanks Mike. The shell game is a universal scam isn’t it? Must admit, I’ve never seen it in Paris though
Thanks Andy, I’ve never seen the argument scam in Paris, but have heard of it in relation to other cities. Great of you to add it to our list!
Perfect response. Or just ignore them
We were in Paris just last month and noticed so many young girls running around the tourist locations asking if people spoke English while holding a paper taped to a piece of cardboard. We assumed it was a petition scam, or something of the like. A few people stopped to chat, and it was obvious that other girls were circling about watching for the right time.
Here in Vienna we have a problem with pickpockets on the street trams. Young, well dressed girls hiding their hands behind a shopping bag while standing just a little too close to you. I’ve been lucky enough to catch a few violating other passengers, causing them to hurry off at the next stop without any goods.
The most prevalent in Vienna is found in the train stations. A young couple, occasionally pregnant, ask if you speak English. They have a laminated (first clue) time table for trips to Germany or wherever, asking in very limited English if you can help. They do it in a way that you have to ask them many questions, allowing one of their compatriots to bump you/your bag/etc and swipe what they can. When we first moved here, we nearly fell prey to it. Luckily, there being two of us, the other kept an eye on everyone around us and we walked away wiser and with our belongings intact.
Trams, buses and metro trains are notorious for pickpocketing. This is especially true on lines around tourist sites – special caution is required on public transport from airports too. Thanks for the advice about the Vienna train stations. I don’t think anyone has reported this as yet.
Meg Stuart says
While withdrawing money at an ATM near Saint Germain des Pres metro station, two boys aged about 10 ran up and punched buttons on the ATM and then ran away again. They had timed it perfectly, after the PIN went in but before the cash amount was chosen. I think they were expecting my husband to chase after them so their accomplice, a third child could collect the cash about to come out of the machine. My husband was quick thinking and cancelled the transaction, but they were persistent in dashing back to see what was happening at the ATM and then begging us for money.
Glad I wasn’t alone and we chose a less exposed ATM next time.
Thanks so much for this Meg. I don’t recall anyone telling us about this one. Extra care is always needed around ATMs
David from travelscams.org says
Great article, thanks for the tips! With the Atlantic coast, modern winter resorts on the French Alps, medieval castles, world class gastronomy and many more, France is indeed a fascinating land to visit. However, there are a number of crooks targeting tourists in the country.
Do be wary of the gold ring scam, Louvre pickpockets, string/bracelet scam, ball and cup/shell game scam, petition scam, rose scam, street vendors, rogue taxi drivers, helpful strangers, charity beggar scam, lost soul scam, clumsy jogger and many more!
Thanks for adding your advice David – appreciated
I must admit I am very worried now. I will go to Paris on my own but all of this gives me anxiety now.
As I guess most of you have more experienced, there is one thing I am wondering. How you can not look like a tourist? I mean if you are walking past a monument or stuff like that, of course you want to take a picture. And you will definitely always look like a tourist. What’s the point in going to Paris and not take any pictures just not to look like a tourist? I fear I am missing something.
Having said this, I have lived in London for year and I have been mugged on my way home, far from tourist sites. I guess it can happen as well.
Anyway, thank you for all these super helpful insights and looking forward to receiving some suggestions regarding the tourist/camera thing.
It’s a shame that all this is going on because sometimes there are people genuinely lost and asking for directions (me included) but we have to just ignore everyone because of this people 🙁
Bloomin’ heck, these are some well-practiced individuals carrying out these scams. Thanks for the publicity!
Yes, there certainly are!
Don’t be frightened to visit Anna. If you currently live in London you just need to take the same precautions that you would there. Of course you want to take photos – and you should. Just don’t walk around with your camera round your neck!
Question………how does a man “look like a local”? Where does a local man keep his wallet, phone, etc? Easy enough for a woman to wear a purse across and in front with her hand on it at all times. But what does a man do?
Subarna Mondal says
Be very careful while on a taxi. While leaving paris i had to take a cab to the airport. Very meticulously I had given a fifty euro note to the driver. He took it in his hand, it was dark inside the cab, and he showed me a currency note of 10, claiming that I had given him a ten and not a fifty. Ask the driver to switch on the light, show him the note, ask him to verify the note while it is still in your hand, only then hand it over.
This is such good advice Subarna – being careful with cash is just so important
Hi Peggy, the thing is to avoid things like backpacks and bumbags, as well as the more obvious things like not leaving your wallet in your back pocket. I frequently travel with Mr frugalfirstclass’s wallet in my bag, or if he doesn’t need it, we leave it in the safe at our hotel (so if anything happens to my bag, we still have a set of credit cards at the hotel). If you look at European men, they often get around the city with satchels or cross body bags. If your husband needs to carry a bag, choices like that are a better option, as are jackets with inside pockets.
The ball i the cup is also common in Paris. I saw it often near the Sacré coeur and the trocadéro.
Still near the Sacré Coeur, between the subway and the church, some guys grab your arm and tie a bracelet to your wrist then ask you money for it.
Oh and the baby trown into your arms starts to be a thing here too.
I’ve also had my phone stolen while i was stopped in the traffic in my car.
As a french, i feel for the tourists that they have to be careful like this…
It’s also sad because it make them also too scared of talking to people…
I enjoy helping or talking to tourists, giving them some tips but I usually refrain myself because i feel like they are going to see me as a scamer…
Yes, we experienced the ring scam here as well about 10 yrs. ago. And then about an hour later on the Champs Elysees! Luckily, could tell it was fishy and didn’t fall for it!
I have also experienced in London the rose scam.. twice! The first one, I was in Subway when a woman gave it to my ex. He was baffled and decided to take it. She then insisted that he pay for it. He tried to give it back, but she wouldn’t take it until a subway worker came out and shooed her off. The second time, I was in Oxford Street with my current boyfriend when a man offered him a rose. I told him not to take it; however, he ended up doing so and yet again, the guy insisted he pay, which we didn’t. And the thing is, I live in London, and always have. Scammers and pickpocketers will try it on anyone.
After getting off the metro going to the airport some men asked if they could have our metro cards with leftover money on them. We gave them to them later to find out we needed them one more time. We were scammed and had to buy new cards. This was in NYC but now I know for future travel there and to other cities. People like this make it difficult to be charitable to those who really need help. Thanks for your advice. I will be cautious on my upcoming trip to Europe.
Thanks Shalise. Great advice.
The roses certainly get around
Thanks Celine, I haven’t seen the ball in the cup at all in Paris – great advice!
Oh my gosh, my daughter and I got fooled into this one. We thought we were being so nice. Somehow LV knew that we had taken that money and kicked us out of the store. It was so embarrassing. Later, we were thinking we should have taken the money and run. Ha ha ha… but then her thugs would probably have chased us down. And 2 wrongs do not make a right. It just doesn’t occur to you, right away, when someone is giving you real money to do them a favor…. that you are being duped. Later, we thought they were actually looking to copy the purse, wallet, what have you, back in their country. That could also be the case.
That’s the thing – I think these people prey on more honest looking people.
Sylvie Levasseur says
Thank you all of you for sharing your expériences. We will pass a month in Paris next march. It will be usefull!!! Recently in the Subway in Syntagma station in Athens, we had a bad expérience. While we were leaving the train in a hurry, some guys locked the doors and asked my husband to push a button. Within two seconds he took his hand from his front pocket were his wallet was. Guess what happened? We learned that we had to be very carefull when a group of persons cause à distraction.
Victor Vibal says
Your advice is most specially true even for groups. I have been to PAris 3 times the one was in July this year 2018. There used to be a group in the Sacre Couer area that trap tourists climbing up the stairs to the Cathedral. They will tie a thread on you wrist and force you yo donate an amount out of respect. they do this while two other blacks will encircle you.
there is also the betting group on the street going up the Sacre Couer. These are mostly Eastern europeans who will invite people to place their bets. there is a bogey woman tourist who will join and pretend to lose money on the first two rounds.
Yes, that whole area around Sacre Coeur is minefield for the unwary. Thanks for the advice regarding the wrist bands
Yes, distractions are always risky.