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Sure, we all know Paris is a big city with it’s fair share of petty crime – even the announcements in the Metro stations warn tourists to “faire attention aux pickpockets.”
But aside from just generally watching your wallet or purse, there are a number of scams typically used on tourists in Paris. They should know it’s not so easy to con a Cheapo!
Here are a few of the most typical scams to watch out for:
1. “Free” bracelets at Sacre Coeur
Most days, as tourists start to walk up the steps to reach Sacre Coeur, they face a veritable gauntlet of men trying to trick them out of a few euros. This scam involves someone tying a string bracelet onto your wrist and then refusing to let go until you “pay” for the souvenir.
While these men can be aggressive, they are fairly easy to avoid. Often if you speak French they just leave you alone – a simple “non, merci” should do the trick. (Read more tips for visiting Sacre Coeur.)
2. “Did you drop this gold ring I just found?”
I don’t really understand how this one works, but it must, because so many scammers still do it. It starts like this: as you’re walking along the street, someone approaches you and asks, “Excuse me, did you drop this gold ring?” When you say, no, that’s not mine, the person then tries to foist the ring on you, saying it must be worth a lot of money.
Since he or she is in the country illegally, the person can’t possible sell the ring, but you as a respectable tourist should have no problem. Can you just give him or a her a little money (not even the value of the ring)? Of course, in reality the ring is worthless. Be on the lookout for this scam in the Jardin des Tuileries and the Champs de Mars, near the Eiffel Tower.
3. “Do you speak English?”
As foreigners in a strange land, we’ve all needed to ask for assistance at some point. So when someone asks if you speak English, the logical response is: “Yes, I do! How can I help?” However, the next step on the part of the asker is to hold up a card with a poorly written sob story asking for money.
This isn’t so much a scam as a clever way to engage with tourists before begging for some spare change. It’s up to you whether or not to part with a few euro coins. These alms seekers can be found in pretty much all the major tourist districts, and are especially abundant in the square facing Notre Dame.
As the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would tell you, don’t panic! Like in any big city, it is important to remain on one’s toes in Paris, but that shouldn’t prevent you from having a good time. Just keep on eye on your belongings and use common sense and you should be fine!
Tell us your scam story
Have you witnessed or been the victim of a scam in Paris, or in any other city while traveling? Tell us about your experience–and what you’ve learned from it!