Scams in Paris – Tourist Scams to Watch Out For
Paris is a safe city, but like any large city, there are some things you need to watch out for when traveling to the French capital. I touched on scams in Paris in my post all about visiting France for the fist time, but I wanted to give a more in-depth look into the tourist scams to look out for in Paris so you can avoid becoming a victim of theft! A stolen passport or credit card can ruin an otherwise amazing vacation, so I hope you can use these tips to avoid petty crime in the French capital. I lived in Paris for 6 months, and I’ve visited the city several times, and I have never personally had an issue with scams in Paris.
As I said, Paris is a generally safe city, but you need to be aware of your surroundings and use common sense to avoid becoming a victim of theft. These tourist scams are found in many other European cities as well (like Rome and Barcelona), so use this guide to scams in Paris to prepare yourself for any upcoming trips across the pond!
Types of Scams in Paris
There are several different types of scams in Paris, ranging from complex distraction scams to simple threats.
The Bracelet Scams in Paris
I’ve only seen this scam in action in Montmartre in Paris, but I’ve heard that it occurs in other areas of Paris (and other cities) as well. Basically, someone will grab your wrist and tie a bracelet made of string around it (without asking your permission) and demand that you pay them for their “gift.” Normally they tie the bracelets so tight that you cannot get it off, and they might even start yelling at you or threatening you if you don’t pay. In this case, either say “no” assertively and walk away, or give them a 50 cent coin and walk off if you feel intimidated. This is one of the most well-known scams in Paris, and you can see evidence of it was you walk up the hill to Sacre Couer- there are hundreds of colorful strings on the ground where people have taken these “bracelets” off.
The “Found Object” Scam
Another common tourist scam begins with a stranger getting your attention because you’ve “dropped something,” and they’re “trying to return it to you.” This scam is also referred to as the “gold ring scam” because the person will sometimes “find” a golden ring at your feet and offer to sell it to you for a very modest price. The object could be a wedding ring, iPhone, or wallet- basically anything to get your attention. While remaining highly aware of your purse, wallet, or backpack, see what they’re claiming you dropped. If you don’t recognize whatever they’re holding, you’re probably in the middle of a distraction scam. While you’re looking to see if the object belongs to you or if you’ve misplaced something, another person will actually pickpocket you. Keep your valuable items like phones and wallets close to you at all times- never in back pockets or purses without zipper closures. Avoid eye contact and walk away if you feel like this scam might be happening.
The Clipboard Scams
I’m not exactly sure how to describe this particular scam, because the charity cover story is different every time. Normally, there is a group of several young girls (they usually look like they’re anywhere from 16-30 years old) with clipboards who appear to be canvassing to collect signatures for a charity cause. These girls (and sometimes boys) are almost always at major tourist sites- on my most recent trip to Paris, I saw them outside the d’Orsay Museum and near the Eiffel Tower, but I’ve also seen them in Montmartre.
They’ll approach you asking for signatures (and sometimes money) for a cause, which can be pretty much anything (I’ve seen them collecting money for disabled people and orphans). Now, I don’t want you to distrust every person you see asking for signatures or help, but I’ve seen this particular con enough times to know that this is another distraction scam. One of their friends will pickpocket you while you sign their form. Just say no and keep walking if you see them.
Three Card Monte (and Other Games) Tourist Scams
You may already know that the card games people play on the street are rigged, but you might not know exactly how far these tourist scams go. The game itself is an obvious scam- even if they let you win the first or second round, they’ll almost always come out on top. Sometimes, they’ll plant their friends in the “audience” and let them win so it seems like the game is fair, but this is all for appearances. The other part of this con is a distraction scam- other people with the group will move through the crowd and pickpocket the unsuspecting tourists watching.
Check out this post for more tips on what NOT to do in Paris.
How to Avoid Tourist Scams in Paris
Now that you know what to look out for, you can prepare yourself to respond should you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. Generally, your response should be the same in every situation. Once you realize there’s something fishy going on, firmly say no and walk away while holding on to your belongings. Sometimes pickpockets or scammers will be persistent, but if you’re assertive and walk away, they usually won’t follow you. There’s such a large police presence in Paris now that you can easily attract attention that will make the scammer back off by making a scene (if they won’t back off).
Unfortunately, if a pickpocket gets away with your wallet or purse, there isn’t much the police can do, so be sure to cancel your credit cards immediately. Store extra cash in a secure area in your hotel room or suitcase, and alert your country’s embassy or consulate if your passport is stolen.
Want another line of defense against pickpockets? Here’s a guide to the best travel money belts!
Scams in Paris – Tourist Scams to Avoid
With the rise of technology, it has gotten much easier for con artists to rip you off in advanced ways, using the technology embedded in contactless cards to steal information without ever reaching inside your purse. Despite these advances, basic tourist scams still exist in most major European cities. I hope this list of scams in Paris helps you prepare for your trip to the French capital so you know what to look out for! As I said before, Paris is generally a safe city, and I never had an issue with scammers when I lived there.