Paris is high on everyone’s European bucket list, however, there are some Paris tourist scams that you’re going to want to be aware of during your visit to avoid being caught out. The people orchestrating these scams particularly target tourists and as hard as you might try not to look like one, they’ll know exactly who you are and where you’ll be. Which is why more of these tourist scams take place near major tourist attractions within the city.
This article isn’t designed to put you off visiting Paris nor is it designed to make you scared of visiting. Paris is lovely with so much culture and history. An like all major cities in the world, it has crime. Hopefully, you’ll never experience any of these Paris tourist scams first hand. However, being aware of what to look out for saved us from being scammed personally during our trip to Paris, we hope this article will help you achieve the same.
The first of our Paris tourist scams is one we personally experienced during our trip. The most common place for this scam to take place is on the steps leading up to the Sacre-Coeur. The way that the steps are designed makes it near on impossible to walk up them without being targeted by one of the scammers.
The scammers will look to extend there hand, trying to give you a gift. They call it a friendship bracelet. Once on your wrist, they’ll begin demanding money for the bracelet.
The best thing to do in this situation is to continue walking up the steps and refuse the bracelet repeatedly. We had to be very firm with the scammers (there were around 5 on each side of the steps).
The Ball & Cup
A scam we’ve seen in London and then again during our trip to Paris was the ball & cup. Luckily, it’s one you can easily avoid as it’s unlikely any of the scammers will directly target you unless you approach to watch etc.
So, how does the scam work? Well, they’ll be one man orchestrating the scam, he’ll be running the game of allowing you to bet which cup the ball is under. They’ll be other scammers who are undercover as members of the audience placing bets (and often winning large sums of cash) to encourage others to do the same. Of course, put your money down on a cup and you might win the first round… only so they can encourage you to bet more, and more, and more, and before long you’re down a couple of hundred euros to a complete and utter scam.
Be aware that if you do stop to watch this scam take place, you may be subject to pickpocketing by another member of the scamming group while you are distracted.
This is particularly common at major metro stops that see a high volume of tourists pass through is the metro tickets scam. This is where suspectingly helpful locals will come up to you and offer to either buy your ticket for you or sell you a ‘discounted’ ticket for the metro. Of course, this is all false.
You’ll either be sold completely fake metro tickets, only to find out once you try and pass through the barrier gates at the train. Alternatively, that supposedly cheap ticket you purchased will actually have cost you three times more than it should have cost you.
The ticket machines at all of the stations within Paris have a button to translate the language into English (as well as most other foreign languages). Alternativly, feel free to go to the official help booths within the station that are manned by the genuine staff for the station who will assist you in any way they can.
This scam often involves younger people looking for tourists to sign their petition for a good cause; civil rights, handicapped children etc. Once you’ve signed the petition the scammer will be quick to point out that those who have previously signed it donated a sum of money and pressure you into doing the same.
Of course, none of this money will be going to charity and the previous signatures and donation amounts are completely made up.
These scams have been noted to include people pretending to be victims of the exact disease they are campaigning to raise awareness and ‘funds for’ only to make you feel more sympathetic to their cause.
The Expensive Jewellery
This particular Paris tourist scam will entail someone coming up to you asking if you have a lot this piece of jewellery as they hold it in their hand. Maybe a ring, a necklace etc… You’ll say no. However, maybe not straight away. After all, if you’re wearing some jewellery you might need to check.
All this can be very disorientating so watch out for someone else working within the scam to try and pickpocket you at the same time.
Of course, the jewellery won’t end up being yours. An instead the person will forcefully encourage you to buy it as a symbol of luck instead. Convincing you that it’s genuine gold or silver and will be worth a vast sum of money. Once again, it’s not… The best way to avoid this is to immediately say no and continue walking or just continue walking without speaking.
Finally, general theft. This will come in all shapes and sizes, potential thefts could follow you around for hours if you demonstrate that you have valuable goods on you just waiting for the right time to strike. The key is to constantly be vigilant.
Use zip pockets for personal items, use across the body bag or one with secret compartments that are difficult to gain access to. Keep your mobile phone, wallet, camera etc off the table at restaurants and cafés and instead in your bag and keep all your belongings as close to you as possible at all times.
Even our pro-traveller friends Victoria and Terrance from Follow Me Away fell victim to theft during their most recent trip to Paris. I can only imagine how many other travel bloggers this might have happened to who are too embarrassed to tell the tale… So I can not overstate how important the need for consistency within your vigilance to your belongings and your surroundings is. This will hopefully minimise your risk of being victim to theft and any of these Paris tourist scams listed above.
As always we’d love to know your experiences, let us know in the comments if you’ve been victim to any of these Paris tourist scams or other scams either during your trip to Paris or in other cities around the world.