Common Scams in Paris and How to Avoid Them

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Scams occur all over the world, particularly in busy metropolitan areas. In many cities, scam artists target unsuspecting tourists, putting a major damper their vacation. Paris is no exception. Before departing for your trip, it’s advisable to familiarize yourself with this list of the most common scams in Paris and how to avoid them.


The Bracelet/String Scam

In this scam, someone will approach you with the intention of putting a bracelet on your wrist or some strings around your finger. Once it’s been attached, they will demand payment .

This scam can be executed in several ways;

  • A person may approach you with a smile and an outstretched hand.  When you reach out for a handshake they will quickly slip the string or bracelet on your wrist or finger. Next, they will ask to be compensated for their effort.
  • An individual will ask you if you would like a friendship bracelet. If you say “yes” they will tightly tie several strings around your wrist or finger. Then, they will demand money for the bracelet. In some cases, if you do not comply, you may be forcibly taken to an ATM where you will be instructed to empty your bank account.  
  • A scammer will approach a couple and offers with the woman a free bracelet. If the woman says “yes”, he then offers a bracelet the the man. Assuming it’s also free, the man accepts the bracelet. At this point, the scammer will demand payment for either one, or both of the items.
  • Someone will strike up a conversation with you, then ask if you’d like to see a magic trick.  All of a sudden they will tie a bracelet or string around you, and before long they will demand payment.
  • A team of scammers works together. One ties the string or bracelet around the victim, while the other robs the victim.

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • Montmartre, in particular, Sacré Cœur
  • On the banks of the Seine
  • Outside the Louvre
  • In and around the Gare du Nord
  • On the Metro

What to watch out for:

  • Individuals carrying several long pieces of coloured string
  • Suspicious individuals (use your best judgement)

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • If you are approached, keep your hands in your pocket


The Gold Ring Scam

In this scam, someone nearby will find a gold ring on the ground. They may ask if it’s yours, offer it to you, or try to force it onto your finger. If you take it, they will demand money. This is one of the very common scams in Paris, as well as throughout the world.

This scam can be executed in several ways;

  • The scammer bends over and picks up a gold ring, then will approach you asking if it is yours. If you say “no” they will give you a reason they can’t keep it, and insist you take it.  Once you do, they will demand compensation.
  • The scam plays out as indicated above, but the scammer will have an accomplice who pickpockets you while you are objecting.
  • Once again the same scam, but if you refuse payment they walk away for a few minutes and return with their accomplices who will force you to pay.

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • Along the banks of the Seine

What to watch out for:

  • Individually who seem to be lingering in one area
  • Suspicious individuals (use your best judgement)

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • Don’t accept the ring, say “no”
  • If you are approached, keep your hands in your pockets


The Lost Stranger Scam

In this scam, you will likely be at a restaurant or cafe when you are approached by a stranger or group of strangers asking for directions. They will splay a large map over the table and while you are helping them your valuables are stolen.

This scam can be executed in several ways;

  • A group of people may approach you asking for directions. While you are distracted looking at the map, some of their accomplices steal your valuables.
  • The scammer may approach you asking for directions. He will drop a map on the table concealing your valuables. When he takes the map and leaves your valuables will also be gone.

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • Restaurants and cafes (often at outdoor tables)

What to watch out for:

  • Suspicious individuals (use your best judgement)

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • Keep a close eye on your belongings at all times
  • Wrap your arm or leg through the handle of your bag or purse
  • Keep your wallet well hidden in a zippered front pocket. The closer to your body the better.
  • Leave your valuables in your hotel room


The Cup and Ball Scam (aka The Shell Game / The 3 Pea Game)

In this scam, the scammer plays a well-known game where they hide a ball under one of several cups. Then he shuffles the cups around the table or ground. Once he stops moving them around, onlookers bet on finding the location of the ball. When you decide to take a turn, the scammer suddenly moves at lightning speed and you lose your money.

This scam can be executed in several ways;

  • The scammer draws your attention after you notice a small crowd gathered around him. He will be playing the cup and ball game. The onlookers place bets and are successful in finding the ball. They pressure you to make a wager, convincing you it’s simple. Once you decide to give it a go the scammer picks up the pace so you don’t have a chance at guessing correctly.
  • Your attention is drawn to a small crowd gathered around an individual playing the cup and ball game. This is a diversion tactic to have onlookers pickpocketed by one of their accomplices.

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • On the Champs-de-Mars

What to watch out for:

  • Groups of people gathered around one individual playing a game

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • Don’t engage with the group
  • Don’t play the game


The Snatch Theft Scam

In this scam, valuables are stolen by a passerby, or group of people passing by who quickly flee the scene. This is one of the most common scams in Paris.

This scam can be executed in several ways;

  • You bags or luggage could be snatched as the doors close on the Metro
  • Your bags or valuables could be snatched if left unattended on the Metro, at a restaurant, or at the airport
  • As you are walking past a train, bus or parked car, someone inside may snatch your valuables
  • A bicycle or motorcyclist driving past may have a passenger snatch your valuables
  • The scammer may mug you and escape in a nearby getaway vehicle
  • Your valuables and luggage may be stolen when travelling by train or bus at night

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • Areas around ATM’s are especially suscepitble to snatch thefts

What to watch out for:

  • Suspicious individuals (use your best judgement)

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • Remain vigilant, always keep an eye on your bag and valuables
  • Leave your valuables in your hotel room
  • Keep your wallet well hidden in a zippered front pocket. The closer to your body the better.
  • Use a slash-proof bag to carry your valuables


Street Pickpockets

In this scam, a group of people often work together to target an individual carrying something valuable. While one scammer distracts onlookers, another one will distract the victim. A third person will steal your valuable and often passes it along to a fourth person who flees the scene unnoticed. Sometimes it will just be one individual doing both the distracting and the stealing. Street pickpockets are probably the most common scams in Paris.

This scam can be executed in several ways;

  • The scammer may bump into you, simultaneously stealing something valuable
  • A group of scammers may work together to distract, steal, and get away with something valuable

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • Around major tourist sites
  • Inside shopping malls
  • In the street markets
  • In parks, especially at night
  • Around the Metro stations and on the trains
  • Inside busy clubs

What to watch out for:

  • Suspicious individuals (use your best judgement)

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • Keep a close eye on your belongings at all times
  • Leave your valuable items in your hotel room
  • Keep your wallet well hidden in a zippered front pocket. The closer to your body the better.


The Louvre Pickpocket Scam

In this scam, pickpockets operate in the busiest in and around the Louvre. The multitudes of people in such cramped spaces make for many easy targets. 

This scam can be executed in several ways;

  • The scammer may bump into you, simultaneously stealing something valuable
  • A group of scammers may work together to distract, steal, and get away with something valuable

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • Busy spots inside the Louvre (ie. the Mona Lisa)
  • In the lineups outside the Louvre

What to watch out for:

  • Suspicious individuals (use your best judgement)

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • Keep a close eye on your belongings at all times
  • Leave your valuable items in your hotel room
  • Be aware of people who bump into you
  • Keep your wallet well hidden in a zippered front pocket. The closer to your body the better.


The Metro Pickpocket Scam

In this scam, a thief will steal either a bag or the wallet of the victim while using the Metro. This is another one of the most common scams in Paris. 

This scam can be executed in several ways;

  • The thief may grab your purse, bag or luggage as the doors are closing
  • When the doors open, the thief may grab your purse, bag or luggage from the floor between your feet and run off the train as the doors close
  • You may be pickpocketed while walking through the crowds in the stations or standing next to people on the train

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • The Paris Metro, in particular the following stations; Les Halles, Barbes Rochechouart, Gare du Nord, Gare de l’Est, Gare de Lyon, Bastille, and Strasbourg-Saint Denis

What to watch out for:

  • People hanging out by the train doors
  • Suspicious individuals (use your best judgement)

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • Keep a close eye on your belongings at all times
  • Wrap your arm or leg through the handle of your bag or purse
  • Be aware of people following you too closely
  • Keep your wallet well hidden in a zippered front pocket. The closer to your body the better.
  • Leave your valuables in your hotel room


The Signature Scam

In this scam, an individual approaches you asking you to sign a petition. Once you do, they will attempt to force you to donate money to their cause. 
This is one of the extremely common scams in Paris. 

This scam can be executed in several ways;

  • One scammer approaches you and explains their petition. While you are distracted you will be pickpocketed by their accomplice.
  • The scammer will approach you and insist you sign a petition. Once you do, they explain that the document you sign requires you to donate money to their cause.

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • In the Tuileries Garden
  • Around the Eiffel Tower

What to watch out for:

  • Groups of people (often women) carrying clipboards

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • Say “no”
  • Ignore them and walk away


The Friendly Photographer Scam

In this scam, you will be taking pictures when you are approached by a helpful photographer who offers to take your picture. They may ask for payment for their services or could steal your camera or phone.

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • Major tourist attractions

What to watch out for:

  • Anyone who approaches you offering to take your photo

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • If you need help, ask a passerby rather than accept it from someone who approaches you


The ATM Bank Card Scam

In this scam, the scammer will have previously installed a fake card slot and a pinhole camera in the ATM machine. Unknowingly, you use the machine only to find your card stuck. When you leave to find help, the scammer will remove the insert slot and camera, making off with your card and PIN number.

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • ATM’s on the streets and in shopping malls

What to watch out for:

  • ATM’s in poorly lit areas with only a few people around

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • Only use an ATM inside a bank
  • If your bank card gets stuck in an ATM, stay by the machine and call either the bank or the police
  • Conceal your PIN


The ATM Distraction Scam

In this scam, one scammer will distract the victim while they are withdrawing money from a bank machine. When the victim looks the other direction a second scammer grabs the cash.

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • ATM’s in poorly lit areas
  • ATMs along the sidewalk in rough neighbourhoods
  • ATM’s on quiet streets with only a few people nearby

What to watch out for:

  • ATM’s in poorly lit areas with only a few people around
  • ATM’s along the sidewalk in rough neighbourhoods

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • Only use an ATM inside a bank
  • Choose a well lit ATM in public location


The Fake Police Officer Scam

In this scam, a fake police officer will ask to check either your wallet or your passport. Not knowing any better, you comply. The scammer will be looking to steal cash from your wallet or your passport.  

This scam can be executed in several ways;

  • The fake police officer will make up a story about counterfeit bills and then will ask to check your wallet ensuring your money is legit. Once you get it back you realize they have stolen some money, and in some cases your credit card.
  • The scammer once again impersonates a police officer, and requests to see your passport. When you hand it over they flee the scene.

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • Anywhere in the city

What to watch out for:

  • Anyone on the street who asks to see your passport. While in Paris your passport will need to be verified at the hotel. Leave it there until the end of your stay.

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • If you are approached, ask to see the police officers badge. Check the name and ID number.
  • If you still have suspicions, ask to go to the police station


The Fake Traffic Police Scam

In this scam, the scammer impersonates the traffic police and targets rental vehicles driven by foreigners. Using an unmarked police car, he will force you to pull you over during the night. When the fake officer approaches you he disorients you with a flashlight and grabs your keys and phone. Making up an excuse, the he searches your bags and car, stealing any worthwhile valuables.

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • On the A8 around Marseille
  • On the A9 heading towards Spain
  • Along the A13 between Paris and Normandy

What to watch out for:

  • Unmarked police cars with flashing lights

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • Hide valuable items in the trunk of the car or in the glove compartment
  • Keep your wallet and any money out of sight
  • If you should find yourself being pulled over, check the police officers badge for a clear name and ID number.
  • If you still have suspicions, ask to go to the police station
  • Never give them access to your phone, keys or passport


The Metro Ticketing Scam

In this scam, you accept help when purchasing a Metro ticket. You could be overcharged or sold a fake ticket. 

This scam can be executed in several ways;

  • The scammer or a group of scammers impersonate Metro staff and insist they help you purchase your ticket. They will purchase the cheapest fare (usually a child’s ticket) and charge you the value of an adult ticket.
  • You may purchase a ticket from a scammer which is either fake, or has already been used

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • Any Metro station in the city

What to watch out for:

  • People offering to help you purchase your tickets
  • Anyone providing help who asks for your credit card or debit card. They are not accepted at ticket machines

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • If you need help, ask a local or a fellow tourist who is using the machine
  • Don’t accept help from a stranger, seek out the official ticket booth in the station


The Bar Tab Scam

In this scam, the victim heads into a bar for a drink. Inside, they are approached by a friendly stranger who strikes up a conversation. Once the stranger leaves and the victim goes to pay they  find additional charges on their tab.

This scam can be executed in several ways;

  • You are enjoying a drink at a bar when you are approached by a friendly stranger. They strike up a conversation and order a drink. They may ask if you would like one as well. You wrap up your chat, they leave, and when you ask for the bill. When it comes you are shocked to see that the stranger charged a pricey drink to your tab.
  • This one mainly occurs to men. You are enjoying a drink at a bar when you are approached by a group of women. You chat with them and enjoy some laughs over a drink or two. Afterwards, you ask to pay your bill and are shocked to see an exorbitant fee added to your tab. When you question the charge the bouncers tell you the charge is a fee to compensate the women for their services.

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • In the 18th arrondissement around the Moulin Rouge
  • Around the Barbès-Rochechouart area

What to watch out for:

  • Bars in shady neighbourhoods

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • Do some research. Only go to a bar with a good reputation.
  • Don’t engage with anyone you don’t know. If you are approached, excuse yourself from the situation immediately.
  • If you fall victim to this scam, use a credit card to pay so you can dispute the charge. Also, be sure to notify the police.


The Hotel Credit Card Fraud Scam

In this scam, the scammer will telephone your hotel room impersonating front desk staff. He will ask you to provide your credit card details in order to verify some information. Next thing you know there are suspicious charges on your account.  

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • Any type of hotel, apartment, or other accommodation in the city

What to watch out for:

  • Anyone who telephones your hotel room asking for personal information

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • Don’t give out your information. Go to the front desk and talk to them about the call.


The Hotel Room Theft Scam

In this scam, the scammer shows up at your hotel room impersonating either the police or hotel staff. Once you let them in, they will steal your valuables.

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • Hotels with lax security
  • Hotels with doors exiting onto the street

What to watch out for:

  • Anyone who shows up unannounced at your hotel room asking to come inside

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • Never let someone you don’t know and trust in your hotel room
  • Check with the front desk before letting anyone into you room


The Fake Taxi Scam

In this scam, fake taxi drivers pick up fares from either the airport or the street. They will charge you an exorbitant fee, and may hold their victims hostage in the vehicle if they refuse to pay. People who take fake taxis could also be at risk for a kidnapping.

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • Outside the Charles de Gaulle Airport

What to watch out for:

  • The absence of a sign on the roof
  • No meters displaying the fare
  • Licence plates lacking their taxi license number
  • No company logo on display

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • Get a taxi from a clearly signed taxi station at the airport
  • Use public transportation
  • Pre-book you ride at your hotel


The Dishonest Taxi Driver Scam

In this scam, your taxi driver takes you the long, slow way to your destination. This is one of the most common scams in Paris and throughout the world. 

Areas where this scam occurs most often;

  • Anywhere in the city

What to watch out for:

  • Taxi drivers who solicit fares in an aggressive manner
  • Suspicious individuals (use your best judgement)

Tips to avoid this scam;

  • Take public transportation
  • Do your research. Familiarize yourself with the best route and find out the approximate cost.
  • Use your GPS to check the route as you go


Have you encountered one of these common scams in Paris? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.


Sources: https://travelscams.org/http://parisjourney.com/https://www.worldnomads.com/, https://www.france-hotel-guide.com/en/https://www.wanderlustingk.com/https://www.findingtheuniverse.com/


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