Here are common Paris scams you’ll likely find if you visit the French capital, especially so if it’s your first visit and you’re a tourist in the city of lights. Included are the ring scam, the cup & ball, fake petitions, and more. You should know about them as, after all, it’s important to remember that there are people willing to take advantage of the fact that you don’t know the city all that well, and that you’re most likely an honest person!
While fear of travel and these scams should by no means put you off visiting the city of lights, it’s important to bear them in mind when visiting so that you don’t fall prey to some of the most common Parisian tourist scams… Having lived in Paris for just over a year, I’ve seen all of these cons in action in action (apart from pickpocketing- but I know a lot of people who have been pickpocketed). So here are the top 5 Paris scams you should try and avoid!
(Fake) Petition, Commonly practised around Notre-Dame and Île de la Cité.
How it works: Usually an adolescent, child or young woman will approach you asking you to sign a petition. The paper will already have signatures on it and be for a seemingly good cause, although it is actually a fake. Once you’ve signed the piece of paper, the scammer will demand a considerable money from you- none of which will actually go to charity.
How to avoid this scam: Just say no, don’t sign and walk away if they persist.
Gold (or Silver) Ring Scam, Commonly practised around the bridges along the Seine, where you’ll find the Paris Bouquinistes.
How it works: A man or woman will have left a ring on the sidewalk and be waiting around the corner. Once you’ve picked up the ‘valuable‘ ring, they’ll appear. They’ll say that you can keep the ring ‘for good luck‘ and demand money from you in return. The ring is fake. I have to admit, the first time a lady approached my ex-boyfriend when I arrived in Paris at 18, I’d never even heard of this trick and it seemed weird but it didn’t even occur to us that it was a scam. Obviously, we didn’t hand over any money but the ring will even be ‘stamped’ with a gold mark- as fake as the gold ring itself. So bear this in mind.
How to avoid: this scam Just say no and walk away. Note: this scam doesn’t necessarily have to involve a ring and can include other valuable looking items such as jewellery pieces.
The String Trick, Commonly practised around Montmartre and the steps of the Sacré-Coeur
How it works: A group of men and women will be standing in a group. They will offer you a friendship bracelet, seemingly out of generosity. Once you’ve got the bracelet tightly fastened to your wrist, they’ll only let you go once you’ve paid them a certain ‘fee‘. More often than not, they won’t even offer you a bracelet but try to tie a piece of string around your hand or finger.
This one scares me the most as someone has literally grabbed my arm before; there were few people around at the time and so I just shouted at him until he let go of me. Just say no and walk away quickly.
Cup and Ball, Commonly practised around Montmartre and Trocadéro.
How it works: This is one of those Paris scams aimed at tourists in which is you are genuinely led to believe that you have a chance of winning some big money. Basically, there will be a man or woman with a little mat, a ball, and three cups. They’ll place the ball under one of the cups and mix the three up. The way you ‘win‘ money is by guessing which ball the cup is under. Bets can go as high as €50 and you’ll be offered the chance to win double your money if you correctly guess which cup the ball sits under.
The cup and ball trick? The game master will have accomplices posing as tourists in the crowd. These people will be allowed to win a number of times (by guessing the correct cup the ball is under). However, when actual tourists start playing, they’ll never win and lose their money.
How to avoid this scam: Just avoid playing. Like many of the other deceits, just say no and walk away!
Leaving your valuables in plain sight/ leaving your bag open
Okay, so this one isn’t necessarily one of the ‘Parisian tourist scams’ but a good point to bear in mind, nevertheless. Don’t flash your valuables in plain sight; you’ll only be marked out as an easy target.
How to avoid being pickpocketed in Paris: Always make sure that your bags are well fastened/ secured and don’t flash your valuables in busy places. Your best bet is not to even open your bag in crowded places, like the metro, at all. Often, you won’t even realize you’ve been pickpocketed until sometime later.
Normally the ‘pickpocketing’ part itself actually happens when someone ‘accidentally bumps‘ against you in a rush for catching the metro or trying to pass down a busy street. This seemingly innocent distraction is actually the thief distracting you while simultaneously robbing you of your valuable possessions.