France: the world’s number 1 tourist destination. Paris: the world’s number 3 tourist destination.

That’s all very well, but did you know Paris is also ranked number 5 for theft? You may be a savvy, worldly traveller, but Parisian thieves have a bag full of sneaky ways to separate you from your hard-earned cash. Getting scammed in Paris is unfortunately very common and it can instantly ruin your holiday.

See also: 6 Reasons Why You Will Fall Madly in Love with Paris

And: Paris Tips from a Local: Secret Places, Top Spots and More

Here’s how you can avoid getting scammed in Paris

Avoid getting scammed in Paris

Con Number 1: Gold Ring Scam

Where? Any popular tourist spots. 

Here’s what happens:

Con artist: “Hello, I think you dropped this gold ring?”

You: “No I didn’t, it’s not mine.”

Con artist: “Yes you did, it’s your ring…give it to your wife or friend, they will love it.”

He gives you the ring. It’s heavy in your hand. It feels like gold. You shrug your shoulders. It’s easier to just take the ring and walk away, so you do.

Con artist: “Excuse me, I have no money and no food. I just gave you a ring made of pure gold. Can you thank me by giving me 50 euros?”

You feel guilty for taking the ring without paying, but he won’t take the ring back. You hand over the money: day officially ruined.

How to avoid getting scammed: 

When someone asks if you dropped a ring, just say “no” and walk away. Do NOT engage in conversation.

Did you know: In France, it’s illegal to sell dolls that don’t have human faces – if they have a human body, then they must also have a human face.

Con Number 2: The Petition for the Deaf and Mute

Where? Hôtel de Ville, Gare du Nord and other central areas are known for this infamous trick.

Here’s what happens:

Someone approaches you. They use body language and written cards to claim they’re deaf and mute. You’ll be asked to sign a petition and donate money to their cause.

Don’t be fooled by the page full of signatures – these are from other hapless tourists who were unaware of the scam!

Having caught your attention, they’ll play on your conscience until you hand over the cash.

How do you know they are deaf and mute anyway? The answer is that you don’t. It’s all about separating you from your money.

How to avoid getting scammed:

Keep your wallet in your purse at all times. While it absolutely sucks someone is taking advantage of the deaf and mute, you can always donate to charities where you know the money will get delivered to the right people. 

The popular string / bracelet scam

Where? All the usual tourist traps, but especially Montmartre

Here’s what happens: 

The String People hang around the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, waiting for unwary tourists. Walk up the hill to the Cathedral and, before you know it, a string man will be tying a friendship bracelet to your wrist. There’s no giving it back, and he isn’t going anywhere until you pay.

How to avoid getting scammed: 

Keep your eyes open. If you are unlucky enough to encounter a string man, then keep your bag and pockets covered – one of his friends might pick your pocket while you’re distracted.

Did you know: In 1976, Albert Spaggiari and 20 accomplices robbed millions from the Société Génerale Bank in Nice.

Other scams to look out for while in Paris

  • Clumsy joggers who bump into you (and take your wallet.)
  • Child beggars – they often have a ‘daily revenue goal.’ Their age makes it hard for police to prosecute them.
  • Fake policemen – I’ve encountered 2 fake policemen in France, neither of whom could show me an identity badge.
  • Fake train security – these people dressed as train workers claim to help you get a ticket. In reality, they pay a child’s fare while making you pay the full adult price.

Hot tips

  • Don’t put your wallet or phone on the counter when paying.
  • Say the amount of the bills you give out loud, so they can’t pretend you gave them 10 euros instead of 20.
  • Take a fake wallet! My mum always carries a fake wallet on her travels. The only ‘money’ inside is pieces of paper with ‘loser’ written on them. Why? Because if a thief finds one wallet in a bag, they’re unlikely to keep looking for another.

Have a heart: how to help the people in need

It’s true that many of these con artists are desperate for money to live. But there are more effective ways to help those in need than emptying your purse or wallet:

Restos du Coeur

Restaurants du Coeur was founded by Coluche, a well-known French comedian who came up with the idea in 1985. Despite his death just 1 year later, Coluche’s charity has lived on, and volunteers continue to distribute thousands of meals to the homeless and needy per day.

‘Restos du Coeur’ is still one of the country’s most respected charities – why not take part, help and interact with people who are living on the streets?

Emmaus

Emmaus was founded in 1949 by Abbé Pierre, a French priest who wanted to help the homeless, impoverished and excluded. You can also help by volunteering for this charity, there are a number of responsibilities that you can take on.

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