Paris: Smart tourists know these 3 scams

Watch out for bracelet "sellers" on the steps of Sacre Coeur. Photo by Liz Webber.
Watch out for bracelet "sellers" on the steps of Sacre Coeur. Photo by Liz Webber.

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.

Don’t panic!

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!

About the author

About the author: Liz Webber is a freelance journalist living and working in Paris. She has previously worked for the International Herald Tribune and Budget Travel.
Posted in: Paris Planning
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Cheapo Comments

67 Responses to “Paris: Smart tourists know these 3 scams”
  • Bob Smith says:

    Was in Paris this past May for a week. I read about all three of these scams before going and, sure enough, all three were attempted. That ring thing is very odd, how do they make any money on that one? I don’t get it. It is nice to be prepared for this before you go, so you aren’t taken unaware. Whenever someone pulled the “Do you speak English”, I shrugged and responded in gibberish. They retreated immediately. The string guys are VERY aggressive.

  • Brett says:

    Ahh the post card trick. I was in France a few weeks ago and this one was pulled on me at Notre Dame and I thought it was pretty clever. It was used on me once again at the Eiffel Tower, and the card had the exact same text but from a different beggar. I reached into my pocket for some change and pulled out my hand doing the finger.

  • Backpacker says:

    Watch out for cashiers doing the slow count. I was at a cafe once where the cashier took forever to count out the change. I grabbed the paper money and left the coin because I was rushing for a bus. When I got on the bus, I counted my bills and realized that I was short changed 5 euros. Color me red on that one. Now I make sure to carry small bills and pay in denominations as close to the total as possible.

  • mariela says:

    I was in Paris last September and was walking by the Seine, right in front of the Louvre. A girl from one of the Eastern countries tried to pull the ring trick on me. I had no idea this was a trick but it just sounded way strange when she wanted to give me the ring even after I said it wasn’t mine. She just wouldn’t give up insisting. Be very careful! Thanks for letting people know about this!

    • Jimro44 says:

      I was in paris last week havent been there for awhile. A friend of mine and I were down at Madeleine and this scam was pulled on me. GUESS What I fell for it (5Euros). However, that 5 Euros have provided me with a great cocktail story. I watched this one at least 5 different times in Paris.

      So I am going to encase this ring in a block of plastic with a little brass plate that says “Lest We Forget” LOL

  • Pete says:

    Having just experienced this one here’s a thought, I think the rings are brass compression fittings polished up, definatley not gold and ‘punched’ with a mark on the inside. Even if they hand over the ring it’s pence to replace them?

  • AceofClubs says:

    Beware of any scam, ring or otherwise, that distracts your attention. That’s exactly how pickpockets work in pairs. While one of them distracts you, the other dips you. Also if anybody is counting out a large number of notes in change or exchange for you, and for some reason it disappears from view even for a second (e.g. loud noise behind you causes you to glance around to see what’s going on), insist that it’s counted again.

  • nani says:

    hello, this isn’t really a scam, but it was so frightening that i am posting it on all websites for tourists to Paris.
    I witnessed an italian tourist almost beaten to death on the train by two young robbers from the airport to Paris around 8pm on the 22nd of October 2009. I got involved and was bashed around too by these kids. But unlike the italian tourist, i fought back (i know, i know…could have gotten killed).
    I find this incident rather bizarre because i am 47 woman and there were at least 5 men on the train in good enough physical condition to help. But the French are very passive when it comes to things like this. So, for your own safety, never, ever take the RER B from CDG airport to Gard du Nord UNLESS it is the nonstop train. The other one i took stops in all the welfare project type towns with bunches of angry young men who make a fortune stealing cell phones and whatever from tourists. Thanks for posting this. Nani

    • Nathalie Roy says:

      Yes, French don’t get involved at all. You could be beaten to death on the metro or RER and they will just stare. They put much of their will power into social strikes and manifestations tho, unfortunately helping someone who needs help is beyond them it seems. My husband is French and he gets involved, but he is a rare case.

    • Allana says:

      All right. I can’t believe I was victim of this scam since I saw it on French TV last year.
      I went to an ATM machine and one of those Eastern European kids arrived.
      Very safe spot. Rd point des Champs Elysees.
      He had a piece of newspaper in his hands and he started getting close to me and distracting me.
      I knew something fishy was going on. So I pressed cancel and got my card back.
      Not sure how this happened but apparently he was able to withdraw 300 Euros from the account.
      A police woman appeared right away in regular clothing and told me that she thought I was scammed.
      I was not sure because I had pressed cancel but we found out later that he had taken the 300 Euros out.
      The poor team spent so much time looking for the money that the kid had hidden in the bushes.
      They caught him but have a feeling he will soon be on the streets again.
      I spent 3 hours at the station filing a complaint.
      Be very careful with the ATM machines in Paris. If someone comes close to distract you just leave right away.
      Try to find banks which have ATM machines inside.
      I used to live in Paris and usually feel safe but unfortunately some people from the Eastern European countries especially Romanians are out there to scam people shamelessly at any cost.
      They are very smooth and trained from a very young age to steal.
      Even though I don’t consider myself a tourist in Paris I will be much more vigilant from now on.

      • Bianca says:

        Thanks for the unnecessary stereotype. Us Romanians thank you.
        As for scams, I was “lured” into the fake ring one. We suspected straight away that it wasn’t right but the woman wouldn’t let go and followed us until we gave her a few euros. Then she asked for more, though we insisted on giving her the ring. I guess we’ll be more firm in tbe future. A very important thing is to not let people give you stuff (I.e. bracelets, rings, worthless crap) as it’s often a way to distract you and it’s never a “gift”.

      • Allana says:

        Sorry I did not mean to offed anyone. There the Roma people and in France when they pronounce it I thought they were Roumanians.

  • [...] This article comes from the helpful folks at EuroCheapo, and it outlines three ways people will try to help you part ways with your hard-earned travel money. One of them is really common, one of them seems so weird that it could never work (but it clearly does or they wouldn’t keep trying it), and one of them is so blunt you almost want to give them credit for being up front with you. [...]

  • K says:

    Near the Eiffel Tower a man tried to hand me a rose and said “for the beautiful lady”, I said no thank you and kept walking, he insisted, I said I’m not buying and kept walking, he insisted, I said I’m not giving you any money and kept walking, he still insisted on giving me the rose so I took it. He then went around behind us to my husband and said “3 Euros.” I laughed and handed the rose back. The failed scammer gave us a very dirty look.

  • Anna says:

    When getting money out of an ATM on the street, don’t let yourself get distracted. A few friends were caught off guard by some small children bum rushing them and one of the kids grabbed the money as it came out of the machine.

  • hognoxious says:

    Watch out on escalators. One “accidentally” drops something like a coin just at the top and bends down to pick it up, and as you bump into them another pikey behind tries to pick your pocket.

    I misread it and thought the one in front was trying to trip me; let’s just say I wouldn’t have got away with what I did to him if I’d done it to an opponent on a Rugby pitch…

  • [...] a shame that were the tourists hang out there are many scamming attempts. We encountered three of the most common ones: the gold ring scam, the “do you speak English” scam and the string men of [...]

  • babs says:

    I just witnessed the lost gold ring scam in Paris. Same method and I had not even read about this scam. I just walked away. Anything that is too good to be true is exactly that. I have also been approached with the do you speak English scam, again i shook head and walk away. I wonder what else is out there.

  • Gabriella says:

    My boyfriend’s sister has just been victim of what looks like a scam, however we are not sure about this and would like to check if it has happened to anyone.
    On Monday evening, in Paris, she was approached by an Australian man who claimed that he had come to Paris Eurodisney with his girlfriend and children.
    He claimed he had only one cash card, that he had tried to get money out of a cash machine, however the girlfiend used her PIN code instead of his three times and the card had been blocked.
    He needed 45 euros to go back to the girlfriend and children (not sure where these were, as 45 euros will definitely get you a lot farther than Eurodisney from Paris). He was insisting he was very ashamed and embarassed and that he could leave them his passport (???) or his watch (he probably had 50 worthless watches under his coat), that he was a businessman and had a secretary etc. etc. and please come with him to the girlfriend and children to check they were real.
    She gave in and gave him 5 euros, and I was glad she did not follow him, however we thought this was a scam.
    Has anyone else had the same experience?
    Thank you for posting.

    • Bes says:

      Gabriella,
      This EXACT thing happened to me just last night, at the Nord station in Paris. Except he claimed to be a Jewish Canadian banker but the “girlfriend + children”, “messing up the card PIN”, “I am so ashamed to be asking this, so embarrassed (with tears in his eyes), “I can leave you my watch and even my spectacles and get it back later” etc, ALL HAPPENED.

      I asked to see his passport but he said his gf had it with his jacket (it was an early December evening, why would you NOT have your jacket, or any kind of ID on you for that matter?) and that she was so stressed out that he did not want to make it worse by letting her find out he was asking strangers for money.

      Yeah, I almost knew it was a scam but stupidly I gave him money. 80 euros, such a dumb move.

      I wish I had done more study on these scammers before I left for my trip – I hope others will take note and give this guy a kick in the balls for me if he approaches you.

  • karen says:

    I have just returned from Paris today and have been scammed twice……………….. i wish I had read this first.

    First night walking to montmarte got hooked by the string guys, actually thought they were quite sweet braceets and my better half had one too…………….. now the scam…………. he wanted 10 euros each…………….I laughed and stared in disbelief and said no you are joking, he said he wasn’t……Then because I am english and get too embarressed etc said 10 euros for both, so yes guys I paid £8.50 for 2 pieces of string. Daft thing is \i would of quite happily paid 2 euros for one so maybe if they were abit more honets they would make more money, instead of robbing us.

    Secondly when walking along seine was asked by a lady did you drop this ring? No I reply, she says oh its gold are you sure? No I reply. She then said she was from bosnia looking for a job as a cleaner and her religion prevented her from having jewelry and thrust the ring on us. We were wary but also concerned as a coach had just unloaded and we were worried that if someone had jsut dropped it then they would be upset, so we about turned and went back towards the coach but no one there. Then the lady appeared again and told us that she was hungry and had no job and could we give her some money for food……………. That’s when my senses pricked up, I dug in my pocket and gave her my chang (about 3 or 4 euros), she then said it wasn’t enough and could i give her more. I told her I had no more money on me and she left.

    So 4 days and 2 scams…………….. didn’t get scammed anywhewre else unless you count the ridiculous prices they charge for a brew!!!

  • Smartarse says:

    Whilst holidaying in Paris with my family, we would often be approached be the “do you speak English?” women. It began to get very frustrating as we were approached many times a day. Eventually, I began saying “yes, I speak perfect English” and walking off. The silly gypsy women were visibly annoyed often responding with angry soundy French that was no doubt abuse. That’ll show ‘em.

  • Charlie says:

    I got scammed today on the Champ de Mars. I was just reading a book on bench when a Roma man came up to me and said “blah blah blah” and did the ring scam… He got very aggressive when I only gave him 2 euros 50 when he saw I had a 20 euro note in my wallet. Despite being in broad daylight I honestly thought he would hit me for “just ten more euros to buy lunch”. Got really angry afterwards and I look out for him now when I walk there to throw the ring back in his face.

  • KateMB says:

    My husband and I just got back from a day in Paris. We were aware of the scams before we went but we were still hit up by people. The first happened outside the Lourve, on the side where there is construction going on. They wanted us to sign a petition to help Zimbabwe. We signed the petition (in very illegible writing) but they they began to hound us for money. We just put the pens on the clipboards and walked away.
    The next time was when we arrived at the Eiffel Tower. Two different times young girls approached us asking if we spoke English, which we told them “no”. Even though we do we both speak Spanish so it was easy enough to be able to talk with each other. Then we were bombarded by the trinkett salemen…it was so bad we walked straight through the opening under the tower and proceeded as far as we could away from the tower while still being able to take pictures. We knew there would be people there trying to approach us BUT it was worse than I ever imagined.
    We will probably never go back to Paris because it was so off-putting.

  • Sun says:

    Recent trip Oct 2010 to Paris for our Honeymoon and we almost got caught with the “gold ring” scam. Just ahead of the Louvre I saw a large gold wedding band lying on the ground in front of us, as I went to pick it up a middle aged lady appeared out of nowhere and got to it before me. She picked up the ring and laughed at the irony of us both seeing it at the exact same time … she then politely offered me the ring to claim an award and wished me “bon chance” in life. My husband and I became suspicious and tried to give her the ring back … she refused saying we must keep it as I had seen it first. Not realising this was a common scam at the time we pocketed the ring and decided to carry on walking. Then she started asking for food to “mange” .. pointing at her mouth. We then realised what she was upto and gave her the ring back. She became very upset and started to create a scene. We carried on walking, and ignored her shouts. She eventually gave up and disappeared back into the bushes from whence she came.
    Two days later outside Notre Dam the exact same thing happened, only this time it was a young male. We immediately laughed and said “no way”.
    Another observation from the roof of a tour bus was watching middle aged lady beggars practicing their “shaking starving hand”, “stooped walk” and “creaked neck look” round the back of the Opera house … then wrapping themselves up and putting it all into practice at the font of the Opera house for all to see. Oscar material.

  • sara says:

    I wasn’t aware of any of the scams prior to my travels in Europe. However, I did see all the scams mentioned in the original post. Thankfully, having some street smarts, I was not duped. What disconcerted me was the aggressiveness I saw with these folks towards tourists; it was down right obnoxious and rude, particularly in a country that prides itself with politeness and manners. I traveled alone and simply said, “no merci!” or ignored these charlatans altogether.

    Walking down the Champs Elysee I did see the ring scam; it was a wife/husband team. I followed THEM as they saw I was watching and was nearing the police – they made a b-line out of my sight.

    The bracelet scam was ridiculous and also disturbing as the men were very aggressive towards both men and women. Saw the “Do you speak English” all around the city and likewise around the Louis Vutton store, “I want to buy a bag, can you help me?!” I did laugh at that one and replied, “No Merci! I don’t even have a job myself. If you think I am going to buy YOU a bag, you’re out of your mind!”….

    The only things I enjoyed about Paris were the food choices and the museums/cathedrals/historical sites…..I enjoyed Stuttgart, Germany a lot more!

  • Daniel says:

    I experienced a tourist trickery in Lisbon (October 2010) I thought it could never be a scam. On a Sunday evening, 10:30 p.m., I walked around the Avenida – Marques de Pombal area when a young woman (maybe 30 years old) with a backpack asked me for the time. I didn’t look like a tourist, but however, she got to know I was a tourist by asking me in Portuguese. Albeit I understood what she wanted, I said I could only communicate with her in English, and gave her the time.

    Then she approached a little closer and said: “Oh that’s good that you understand English. I am in quite a hurry, I have to find a money exchange office. Do you know one around here? In my hotel, they aren’t very helpful.” I had a look at my handy maps, but my Nokia showed only ATMs. I said, No sorry, I can’t help you with this. With a panicking look in her face, she then told me her story: “I am from South Africa, I am a psychologist who attends a conference in Lisbon tomorrow. It’s the first time I am travelling alone, and almost everything is a chaos. I travelled with Air France and they lost my luggage, and I have to return to the Airport until 11:00 p.m. to get my luggage back. Unfortunately, I cannot change the South African Rand, I spent my last Euros for the taxis.”

    Because one of my colleagues in company is from South Africa, I immediately compared their looks, but found no signs for a scam. After all, her English was just perfect, a lot better than mine. She had this panicking look, and really seemed to be in a hurry. She didn’t even asked me for money, but that was the trick, I then opened my wallet and gave her some money for the taxi to the airport (and for the return; btw, in Lisbon, there is no subway going for the airport). She immediately began to write my name and address down to a tourist map of Lisbon, and agreed to bring the money back to me the next day. She even promissed to call me on the mobile and have dinner with me :)

    Okay, I just gave her 30 Euros and calculated with some risk of not getting it back, but after I returned from Lisbon without having heard of her again, a friend of mine told me the same story, that he experienced in Paris. But he gave 80 Euros!!! Well, because this girl was in a hurry, and gave me a perfect show, I didn’t want to have a look on her passport or even take the Rand. In the Paris case, Interpol knows about the man and his wrong identity, because the phone is always ringing by an innocent Berlin person and Paris tourists want money back from him.

    • Jagdish kumar says:

      Today I felt for a completely new con trick. At the metro station in Paris I was trying to buy metro tickets at the kiosk. Suddenly a mam who had some official batch hanging from the neck, came to help me. He asked for my destination and other travel plans. He suggested I should buy a full day pass which would be cheaper so for five of us he punched and price of euros 52.50 showed on the screen.

      Than he asked to put my credit card. But my credit card did not work, which did surprise me. Than he asked can I pay cash. I said yes. So eh put his credit card and five tickets cam out. The screen was still showing euros 52.50. So I paid him cash. The tickets worked fin for first destination. But for next it did not.

      To my horror I found out that the tickets he had given me were just one travel of value euros 1.80. There was no value printed on tickets so here was no way of knowing. All travellers be carefully of this trick.

    • Robert says:

      @Daniel, I am staying in Lisbon at the moment and was scammed in exactly the same way. There was very little difference in the story she gave and I’m sure it was the same woman. I reported it to the police and they knew as soon as I mentioned ‘South Africa’ that it was the same woman. According to the police she has been active for around 2 years, but seeing when you were scammed, obviously she’s been making quite a career of it.
      Of course I feel like a genuine fool now but, as you say, her story seemed flawless and she didn’t ask for money straight up, which got my guard down. I hope you don’t feel like it was anything to do with your English – I am Australian and she fooled me with the exact same ploy , asking the time in Portugese and then in English.
      It’s a real shame that people like this find the need to abuse people’s trust for a living, but I consider my lesson learnt – nothing drastic but at 40 euros an expensive lesson nonetheless.

      • Mathieu says:

        I had the same experience on october 2010 with the same woman… 40 euros,

        A dutch guy made a short movie with his own story. I could not believe oit when I saw it.

        When the girl gone, I went to my hostel and i rewind the story of my evening. I google the email adress she gave me (somtething@yahoo.com) and I found that movie ;-)

        4 years later I’m am looking for it now but I can’t find it anymore… I you find it…

  • Fabia says:

    Not really a scam but a common rip off : cafés serving larger and more expensive drinks to tourists than to locals : a tourist sitting on the side-walk tables and requesting a coffee will be served a very large coffee with milk for 7 € (that’s 9 US$) when a parisian will pay 2€ inside for his regular coffee … In a tourist area a request for “a beer” could bring a 1 liter beer for 13€! that’s 4 times the quantity usually served when a parisian asks for a beer…

    When prices and quantities are not clearly listed, don’t hesitate to ask before ordering.

    • Friso says:

      This one is not really a scam, just another one of this little annoying things that can make living as a foreigner in Paris at times seem very tiring. When ordering a beer in a bar, one would typically ask for a ‘demi’, this being the way to indicate a 25cl glass. However, especially in the more touristy areas, waiters will commonly attempt to sell more than you want, by asking that if meant ’50 cl?’, hence selling you twice the amount (for twice the price). Simply refuse this, and state ’25cl’. Or better yet, take your business somewhere else. I really fail to see why a ‘demi’ should be different for a foreigner than for a parisian.

      Related to this, it is also worthwhile checking your bill. In France, it is illegal to omit costs from prices listed on the menu. In other words, when you notice that the price on your bill is higher than should be, due to VAT (at bottom), then demand this to be corrected. And, as before, take your business elsewhere next time…

      There are plenty more little things like this, but for me this has been a recurring one. The simple solution to this problem is to go to bars in the neighbourhoods less frequented by tourists, where you will probably even get served by a friendly waiter.

  • Erwin says:

    Sacre Coeur is not worthed to visit considering bunch of African people down the entrance of Sacre Coeur, Paris. As you know, they are trying to hold your hand, suddenly tying colorful bracelets and force you to pay for it. I had have a bad experience with these, there was no much tourist at that time, and they were trying to split me with my wife. They forced me to pay with paper, I gave them 5€ and they ask for 10€. They threatened me, pushed me, surrounded me with all of their friends. It was really sucks for a tourism. I managed to avoid all other string men in Paris, but not in Sacre Coeur. It is likely a mugging down there. These Africans could be more forceful if there were tourists at all. No Armed Police’s were seen but in improper places. They should have guard down there at the entrance of Sacre Coeur.

    After this incident, I scanned the scene thoroughly, they worked together, not always tend to use violent if there were so many tourists. Also, near the Anvers station, right on the street heading to Sacre Coeur, there you could have seen gambling scam right in the middle of the street. Using 3 black rubber and the player had to choose which one after they shuffled those rubber. You know, I figure it out, they worked with their friend who act to be the players. Giving them money to play, tell loudly that its free. They will make it easy for the first time, and give you money, then scam you rudely.

    These scams ruined my vacation on Paris. Then I decided to just go to the other districts of Paris, which they said the rent is relative high and not so “multi-cultural”, The Louvre, Notre Dame area, Eiffel Tower, Lafayette areas.

    One question, where the hell are police officers in Paris?????????
    In Germany, police are everywhere (^^)

    • Allana says:

      I used to live in Paris in the 80′s and 90′s. It was never that bad.
      I don’t feel like walking on the Champs Elysees anymore.
      I know that as a tourist people like to do tourism but unfortunately these are the worse spots.
      I like going to St. Germain. It is rather scam free for the time being and feels more like Paris than Eastern Europe.

  • Carol says:

    Woman tried the ring scam on us and when we walked away, acted as if to slap me. First day in Paris we were scammed in the Metro station.Trying to get train tickets to Versailles, nicely dressed man offered to help us.He said he would use his credit card to get our tickets from the vending machine (ticket windows were closed on Sun so no real person, only machines).He punched several buttons very quickly, asking if we wanted admission tickets, return tickets, etc – telling us it was cheaper to get an all inclusive ticket.Told us how much it was and we paid him our Euros. Got to Versailles and found that not only did our ticket not cover admission but it also was not a return train ticket so had to buy one of those to get back. People working at Versailles said it happens all the time.

    • Fiona says:

      Very similar thing happened to me at Paris Gare Du Nord. Needed a metro ticket to go two stops to another station. The english option on the ticket machine wasn’t working, so a well dressed man in the other queue stepped aside to help me. He asked what I wanted and could see I didn’t have change so offered to pay with his credit card. He quickly tapped loads of buttons and paid, and the ticket came out. I gave him 10 euros and asked for my change. He then tapped various buttons on the screen and showed me that it ‘cost’ 10.30 or something similar. Which is quite ridiculous for a two stop train journey although this didn’t sink in till I had walked away. Lesson learnt: Buy my ticket myself next time!

  • Carol says:

    Almost forgot – same day as ring scam tried, we got the post card scam while sitting on a bench on Champs Elysees.So total of 3 scams – 1 successful 2 failed

  • Gina says:

    I just returned from Paris. We encountered these string men twice during our visit. Not only at the foot of the steps to Sacre Coeur, but also at a 50 meter distance of the Eiffel Tower. The guy at Eiffel Tower asked my boyfriend for his finger and put the string around it. I got pissed off at my boyfriend (I could not believe he was that gulleable) as well as the guy. I dragged him away and he got angry with me as well. This ruined our trip for no more than an hour or so, but still it was an experience I hope no other tourist fall for. I was afraid for our safety. When we we were both safe I bursted in tears. At sacre coeur we encountered them again. Thank got my boyfriend got the point and saw me getting upset again.

    Another “scam” I encountered were childeren begging for autographs for supporting petitions. these childeren put a pen in your hand, do not speak and point to the line were you have to put your autograph. You will sign for a petition you probably do not support. These childeren are all foreign immigrants (Indian, Gypsy, North African). We saw them at Gare du Nord, Arc de défense and Notre Dame.

  • rogerpaul says:

    Here is another…there are some people on the Champ Elysees who play with cup caps that has a white sticker under it. However, no matter how sharply you look, you will never be able to discover the right one…and there will be some people who are winning, making it look like it is an easy game to win. You put your money and discover that you lost it. They play to win…just avoid these Roma people. I am no racist, and live in Paris, but most of the tricks, the fake beggars, the fake police men, the fake games, are all run by them.

  • Anomonyous says:

    Yesterday, I was approached by a rose scam. Near the shopping district I was walking and a young man was holding a bouquet of individual roses, just believing he was trying to sell them I didn’t look in his direction as I was passing by knowing how aggressive these people can be. My mom and I walked by and he quickly started walking next to us being extremely persistent on us taking a rose. We attempted to ignore him in hopes that he would just go away and he didn’t do so, so we just took the roses. He then demanded that we “donate” to a certain cause since he gave us the rose. We politely said no thank you and when he wouldn’t stop we returned the rose, as soon as we did so he practically vanished! We decided we would not accept anything off the street at this point. However,

    The next day we were walking near the museums, suddenly a strange middle-aged woman rushed down to pick up a ring and went up to my dad asking if he had lost his wedding ring. My dad politely said no and attempted to move on. She stopped in front of us and was explaining to us that he needed to take it because if she had taken it then it would have given her bad luck and she would never get married. My dad told her to leave it on the ground instead of keeping it. She ignored what he had said and kept persisting that he have it. My dad took the ring for a second and she then reached out her hand to “wish him good luck”. Thinking this could be a pick-pocket scam my dad refused to shake her hand and tossed the ring at her. She then caused a scene crying that she would never get married and we walked away knowing she was acting suspiciously. I turned around and she took one disappointed look at me and darted out in the middle of the street and ran almost getting hit by a car. This happened by the Napoleon museum.

    The final scam that we were approached by was the child petition scam. We were by the Louvre when this happened. Several foreign children bombarded us aggressively asking us to sign their petition we ignored and moved on. I wish I had read the comments before coming to Paris. Oddly enough, they must use the same scams over and over.

  • todd says:

    Another good way to avoid the bracelet people is to keep your hands in your pocket so they can’t get the string around your wrist. I’ve experienced the card trick in Berlin before, didn’t happen to me in Paris. Nor did I experience the ring trick, but many of the roma and pickpockets have incredibly elaborate ways to separate you from your money.
    A girl got robbed right outside my hostel in Madrid. 2 guys came up behind her, one with ketchup on his hand. He put his hand on the girl’s head and says “you’re bleeding” as soon as the girl’s hands touch her head, the accomplice reached in her purse and took her wallet.
    Always keep your wits up.

  • [...] From then on, I fended off each of these encounters by feigning Icelandic or occasionaly Welsh. Also, a little pre-trip internet search had also shown me the value of keeping your hands in your pockets. [...]

  • Howard Freeland says:

    I was caught by the ring scam several years ago and kept the ring which cost me 10 Euros and I’ve used it to good effect in Paris.

    A few months ago I was approached 3 times with the ring scam, I feigned interest, said it was amazing, and after 30 seconds of interest say, that is so amazing, you really found it on the ground, oh yes of course, I wonder if there are any more, hey look, I found one, wow it looks just the same as yours, we have one each now.

    I was accosted by one angry woman accusing me of stealing her ring, she said it was hers, I said, no you have one already, this is mine.

  • Howard Freeland says:

    Oh and for the “do you speak English one”, I do speak Russian and responding in Russian blows them away really fast.

  • katey says:

    got caught by the ring scam because I didn’t know about it. I gave the guy 10 E because I thought he was so nice. He haggled me for more and then I knew it was a scam and told him to get lost and enjoy the 10E i gave him. I plan to do the exact same scam with the ring to a tourist in the louvre when I go there. It will work better for me because I am also a tourist and can pretend I’m out of euro and really hungry and would appreciate 10 E for some lunch. I wonder if it will work?????? haha

  • PC says:

    I seem to be approached less frequently than many other tourists in Paris. I have tried to analyse why this is and I think its partly to do with the way I dress (clothing quite similar to the locals), not carrying a map and looking like I know where I am going (which is usually the case anyway). In other words I appear confident. I do get approached occasionally, but if I am with my partner it is a rare occurence. I am convinced that this is because she is of African appearance. We tested this at Sacre Couer recently where no African guys approached us with the bracelet scam while they were going for everyone else very aggressively. We seemed unable to get them interested in us. Maybe other tourists from ethnic minorities could comment on this. Maybe its just coincidence or they thought we were undercover police!

    The police do act. I know that in Montmartre they patrol on bikes and lift people quite regularly. The difficulty is that many of the perpetrators are under the age of criminal responsibility (14 like a lot of european countries). The Roma operate here in the UK, but can’t do the deaf mute scam because our age of responsibility is 10 so they would not be prosecuted. The police in France have a tough job. They can’t run sting operations as they are prevented from anything that could be considered entrapment. Many of the locals look out for tourists and will intervene if they see someone being scammed.

    The vast majority of people in Paris are very welcoming and friendly. Avoid the tourist parts of town and go where the locals go. I never pay more than 2e50 for a coffee and eat well for very little. However, learning some French gives you a huge increase in credibility with the locals.

    As far as retaliation is concerned, the problem is numbers. I can look after myself in a fight, but not if I had four or five guys against me. I would not recommend getting involved physically. Avoid eye contact, block out what they say and move on.

  • El Samo says:

    Just got back from Paris … Had the ring scam tried on us by a dude around the Place de la Concorde. Sensed something off, but didn’t really get the point. Thankfully the scammer didn’t either. He was the world’s worst short con!

    Now … Lest I seem like the world’s second most insensitive bastard … Has anyone had any experience with “the lady balling her frickin’ eyeballs out” at Pere Lachaise cemetery?

    Not sure if it’s a scam … But this lady literally started wailing uncontrollably at a grave just as and only as we walked past her. (North West corner by the Holocost memorials).

    Maybe she was legitimately bereft? But something didn’t seem 100%.

  • PVG says:

    Last week me and my friend were in Paris and almost got pick-pocketed by the same girl twice! She used the same trick both times: the girl was in a group of ‘deaf’ people, trying to get people signing a petition. When we kept on walking one of the girls kept following us. Suddenly she reached out for my friends backpack. We managed to avoid the actual theft, but were stunned by the fact how fast it happened.

    Also, if every offered ring was as valuable as they pretended them to be, I could open a museum myself with golden rings, not mentioning the amount of 10-euro bracelets!

    Be aware of those scammers, Paris is a nice place, but people like that ruin it a bit…

  • Kim says:

    This happened in Berlin, not Paris, and its actually more like a mugging than a scam, but anyway, what happened was, I was walking down the street (in a very wealthy part of the city, incidentally) and a guy walking in the opposite direction asked me for the time. Not being even slightly suspicious, I got out my iPhone to tell him, and in a split second he grabbed my phone and sprinted. So be careful if anyone asks you the time!!

  • Jane says:

    That is total crap about the Sacre Coeur bracelet guys. I went there today by myself, and three of them went after me, one after another, literally grabbed me, while I yelled at them to not touch me and tried to push them off me. It scared me. No woman wants to be grabbed by strange men, especially while alone. This is not okay. A simple “non, merci” wouldn’t have worked.

  • Howard says:

    I let myself into the ring scam because i wanted to know how it worked, I got off very lightly, but it did cost money, but, I then had a ring. Walked a little farther along the Seine and someone else found a ring in front of me. I expressed mazement then suddenly, “Maybe there is another one, hey look what I just found!” The poor woman was very upset, she claimed I’d stolen a ring from her, so I asked her how many she had, then she walked away. I’ve done that three times now. It is fun.

  • John says:

    Just back from Paris. Me and my girl were walking towards l’ Orangerie to see the famous Monet paintings when a young man walked towards us, pretended to have found a golden ring and presented it to me to give it to my girl. When I put it in my pocket he asked for money and I gave him two Euros. We walked on and had a good laugh about it. My girl being less naive than me immediately recognised the scam. It wasn’t threatening or scary in any way.

    Never let it stop you from going to Paris! And don’t forget that there are really poor clochards, just give them some change. Maybe five minutes later you will be drinking a cappucino for 5 Euros, so don’t bother about that 50 cents!

  • [...] also encountered many people trying to pull scams (Descriptions of the scams) At least we were smart enough to know the people were trying to scam us so we just kept walking. I [...]

  • Pete says:

    Me and my mate were in Paris in July – we are both 18 year old males.
    When we visited the louvre and surrounding areas we encountered many scams.
    The ring scam, happened when a 6ft 4+ Yugoslavian bloke tried to open our wallets when we gave him a few coins as he wanted more. So we gave the ring back and walked off.

    Before then an artist came up outside the louvre and said we had ‘beautiful’ faces and if he could draw us. I suspected something and said no were fine but my friend started talking to him he told us how he was Portuguese and over here to work so we presumed he had a real job, but no he preceded to show us his ‘price list’ and asked us for 40 euros each!!
    I said no i had none sorry a turned to leave but my friend willingly handed over 60 euros for two sh*t drawings. I’d say thats a scam.

    Also weird old women ask for your signature for a charity on a badly photocopied bit of paper, we said we had no money but could sign. They said yes thats fine and then tried to force money from us.

    Great place, awful leechers as we began calling them. Just said no, be forceful and keep walking. Tell friends going to paris to be careful too.

  • Simon says:

    Fell for the free bracelet trick outside the Sacre Coeur. I knew exactly what they were up to but they snared me in and once they’ve started it’s so hard to escape. Do NOT be afraid to make a scene and say “NO!”

    One thing: I suspected a scam from the start but when I said, at first, no, they replied with ‘it’s OK’, in the manner of one reassuring a worried traveller that he was just there to ask advice, not to scam us. Nobody in their right mind would turn away from someone just asking for help, so I paused, and then I was snared. Incidentally they call the bracelet a ‘gift’, but don’t accept the argument (once made) that a gift should be free, and then became very intimidating.

  • Luke says:

    Fell for the 3 rubber markers with the “white marker” underneath as I approached the Eiffel tower, 90 euros! He first got 50 from me, then said I could win it back easily, I then bet 40, big mistake, they were all standing around, it looked legit.. My partner was not impressed and I felt like a fool.. It looked easy to win, it isn’t, and you won’t, ruined our day…

  • Neil says:

    4 Paris Scams in 4 Days:
    1. Gold ring scam:Dropped ring, is it yours?
    2. Sacre Coeur String Scam: string bracelet tied on wrist;
    3. Fake petition Scam: pay donation;
    4. Italian suit scam: Director of Milan clothing company.

    Maybe I am just unlucky.

  • Gaby says:

    Italian suit scam: Director of Milan clothing company??
    What scam is that one?

  • Gaby says:

    I was in Notre Dame during December 2011 during my honeymoon and an oriental girl started asking my husband for money, because she was poor and she had nothing to eat, etc etc. She was better dressed than me, had make up on, and she looked as if she just left the hair-dresser salon… she didn’t get any money from us but it took us about 15 minutes to get rid of her

  • Elizabeth says:

    I just got back from a long trip to Europe and didn’t encounter ANY scams in Paris, despite having been through there several times! On our last wait in Paris, I was waiting with our group’s luggage (quite a bit) while everyone smoked and got their last souvenirs in the station, and noticed a man observing me from within a photobooth. He wasn’t very discreet as he was holding the curtain back with his hand and clearly watching me rather than facing a camera to have his picture taken.

    I watched him nervously out of the corner of my eye, when he noticed that he had been spotted, and dropped back the curtain, but continued to watch me through the small crack that was left. At that point I openly turned and stared at him, thinking “why should I not let him know I know he’s watching me?”

    He came out, sat down on the ground next to me, leaning against our stuff and said in English “Where are you from?”

    I said “It’s none of your business where I am from, please go away from here, I don’t know you.” He asked again “Where are you from?”

    I said “It is none of your business, please leave me alone” quite forcefully.

    He punched me in the arm (!) and yelled some four letter words at me. A French man who had been reading a magazine nearby stood and asked me if anything was wrong. I said “Yes, please help, I don’t know this man and he just hit me!” The hitter asked the French guy in French if he had a problem, and the guy responded “the girl has a problem.” I said to the hitter in French “Yes, I have a problem WITH YOU!”

    He left, and the nice man asked me where my friends were, and went off to find them. In the meantime, a woman came up to me and asked “Parlez-vous francais?” I was very discombobulated by this point to say the least, but I said “Oui, un peu.” She then asked if I spoke English to which of course I said yes and she explained that she was a police officer and asked if that man had taken anything from me. He had not, and she warned me to be careful and said that he was a thief.

    The man returned with my friends and as I explained to them what happened, one of them shouted “Is that him?”
    The thief was being arrested by the policewoman and two other plainclothes officers along with one in uniform. All-in-all, impressive and fast work by the French police! I was very pleased.

  • shane says:

    I was at the Eiffel tower some time in august 2013, it was breathtaking and beautiful. On my way back i saw the three shell gambling game(there are so many people doing this scam there). I watched it for a few second and then decided to join in as it looked extremely easy to earn some cash. First time i went ahead with 50 euros then saw others winning 100 and in certain cases much more therefore i decided to put in 100 euros to double it.

    In the end i lost 100 euros which is a very big sum of money when converted to my home currency(around 17600 in.

    so do not try it. It’s a SCAM AND YOU WILL LOSE A LOT OF MONEY AT THE END OF THE DAY. there will be people who win large sums of money constantly but i believe that they are in on the scam. they are there to motivate fools like myself get involved in the game and bet for higher sums of money. You might win the first time but i guarantee 100% that you will loose if you go on and on.

  • Ann says:

    I got on the metro at the station Charles de Gaulle Étoile close to midnight. I put my ticket into the gate, it came out on top, I pulled it out, and walked through the gate, as per usual. I then got off at Place de Clichy shortly after midnight.

    I was stopped by a group of patrol men checking peoples tickets. I was still holding the ticket in my hand and handed it to the guy. He asked what station I got on, I responded in French. He looked at my ticket and it had no stamp marks on it. He ran it through a hand held scanner to check what was on the magnetic strip and told me that the ticket has not been validated, so I had to pay a 30€ euro fine.

    I could not believe it. I explained that I ran the ticket through the machine and was not sure why it wasn’t validated. He quickly got very rude and just kept repeating that I needed to validate the ticket so I had to pay the fine. Then another guy came and was even ruder to me. I asked to speak to someone else who could explain to me what I did wrong or the police. So a lady came and nicely explained in English that the best thing for me to do would be to just pay the fine.

    If the police were called to deal with the situation, it would not be the recommended option. She said ‘ok, maybe the machine didn’t work’ like she totally did not believe me, but that I could write a letter to RATP and explain my circumstances in either French or English and maybe they can do something about it. So i just paid the fine.

    It looks like either the speedstiles do not work and the inspectors are happy to make people pay for their malfunction or the railway team makes them not work deliberately so they can fine people. Seems so suspicious that the only one time the ticket came out with no purple marks was the time the inspectors were out. I looked at my other 7 used tickets, all were marked. I’ve been in Paris many times before and never had this problem. Tourists beware!

    • Alana says:

      I have had issues with brand new, unused tickets being refused when I take the bus.
      In that case, I tell the bus driver.
      For sure there are some issues with the tickets. I hope that you will be able to get your money back.
      I would not accept the fine if I were you.

  • Kelly says:

    I’m in Paris now and I had a young woman try the petition scam on me on Champs Elysees the other day. I had no idea of this scam so I was not prepared. Fortunately, I am from New York and I never sign petitions on the street. I also had a jacket with the pockets zipped and my bag was zipped shut and tight to by body. It went like this:

    Loser Scam Artist: Excuse me, Madame, do you speak English.

    Me: Yes (taking a step back)

    Loser Scam Artist: Can you please sign this petition?

    Me: (taking another step back) I have no idea what that is.

    LSA: It’s for the deaf mute.

    Me: (slowly walking away) I don’t live here. I don’t want to get involved in local politics.

    And then she was gone in a flash. She disappeared into the crowd. I was not thinking at the time that it was a pickpocket. I thought she was a student.

    • Col says:

      I wish I had seen this web site! I was in Paris last week and was shocked by the goings on. I was with my wife who is 5 months pregnant and had hoped to see Paris while we are still able to do so. I have travelled all over the world, Africa, South America, South East Asia and have never seen the behaviour that I was exposed to in Paris. I am from the inner city in Dublin and I am well used to junkies, smack heads and scumbags who are all out to rob you and would consider myself street smart and well able for what is out there.
      We arrived into Paris de Nord from London(civilisation) to the madness of PDN. I have never felt so threatened, either in Zambia, Zimbabwe or South Africa. Our hotel was quite near by and the receptionist suggested that we take a walk up to a cathedral that over looks the city, it was a real tourist spot but I never got it’s name. It was only about a 6 min walk from PDN station. As we approached the steps I spotted a group of Africans near the steps and straight away took a detour for the other side. This was just instinct and nothing racial in case the PC brigade are reading. We were then accosted by two African men with the string trick. I said quite forcefully that I was not interested, he then grabbed my hand to try get the string on but I did not know at the time that this is what he was trying, he would not let go of my now clenched fist. I then shouted and no release came. I dropped my left hand to try release the grip whilst raising my right on instinct to strike and only then did he let go. It was very very disturbing. I was sick that my wife had to witness this crap. Please be aware of the lengths they will go to to trick you. I am 6ft tall, have a full on beard, run regular marathons and am very fit and street smart. I work in construction and am used to the hard life and I’m still shocked that I could have been a victim. On the way down another bunch tried the same but it was hand in the pockets and get lost time, only then did we notice there was about 7 of them, we did not stop to hang around.
      We then went to take the bus tour from beside the opera house where the Romanian gypsies were doing their scam with the “do you speak English” and the “sign the petition scam”. I’m used to these from home but never knew the scam so I instinctively just blanked them.
      Then at the bus stop a girl comes up saying she found a “gold ring”. Now I feel like such a dumb ass for not pinging this. I knew it was fishy as the ring was a brass 3/4 plumbing ring or an olive to any plumber. I knew she was Roma but very well dressed, she kept pushing us to take it. She eventually got the message and buggered off, I wish I hadn’t been so polite.
      So 3 scams in 16hrs in Paris, I’m no dummy so please be mindfull. There are no police around in these areas, this isn’t an episode of Spiral and Gilou will not be there to save you, it’s Paris and we won’t be returning. I can’t believe I didn’t know about this crap. We weren’t conned but it was close, the aggressiveness of the string man was only met by mine and they backed off. It may not be wise to react like this but these people only know one way. Don’t be a victim. Please be aware and play the game on your terms.
      On the plus side we went from Paris to Ghent, pure heaven ;)

      • Rashid says:

        Hi everyone,
        Yesterday, I have lost 200 Euros in a shell game (hidden ball trick). It was being played on the bridge near Eiffel Tower. I came back in my room and goggled it and found an article on Wikipedia. I am a poor fellow and was charmed by lust.
        I intend to go back and search for these guys again on the same very spot or nearby. Make a video and then ask them to return my money otherwise I’ll handover the video to police. Or follow the person to his place and inform police.
        It was huge money for me. My heart breaks when I think about falling into this trap.

  • Gabriella says:

    Hi all,

    I have just come back from Italy and I noticed the following scams at Florence station.

    1. When you buy tickets at the machine, there are people that come and pester you for money. I do not know how they do this, but they managed to take my credit card details in the past and buy a hotel room and a train ticket, so do not let them get near you.

    2. There are also groups of people claiming they want to help you carry your luggage to the train. Once on the train, they will pester you for money. Unless you do want to give them money, do not let them help you, they are very persistent and big family fathers can be very threatening just with their presence.

    Both scams also happen in other cities, I saw this in Florence.

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