It all begins the same way, whether you’re waltzing down the quaint, narrow streets of Paris, or enjoying some frites at a nearby bistrot, or admiring the Eiffel Tower. One moment, you’re checking your notifications on Facebook, or bending down to tie your shoe and suddenly, someone is bombarding you to sign a petition, or sell you a gold ring, or feigning illness to get your attention.
This we have first on the list as a group of young girls who visited our office most recently were victims to this type of scam. What is going on here is that pickpockets are taking advantage of the tourists who do not know how to use the metro system in Paris. Many travellers, just after leaving the airports head to the metro, without preplanning any way of getting to where they are going. For those who are accustomed to the system, it is not difficult to navigate, however to foreigners it can sometimes be quite confusing. WARNING: to buy a single one way ticket, is one euro and 80 centimes ONLY. Even more, if you are looking to buy a 3 day pass, this is best done at one of the help desks or at a tobacco shop outside the metro. If there are people standing at the ticket kiosks telling you that they are selling the passes, or that the machines are broken and that they have tickets for you – beware: these are the pickpockets. Naturally, they will seem very helpful and welcoming. They may explain that the machines are down and they have tickets for you, or if you only have cash on you (and the machines only take cards,) they may offer you to pay them in order for them to use their card in the machine. THIS IS A TRAP. They are not trying to help you, they are trying to help themselves to your money. The poor girls that came on our tour, told us their story of how after leaving Charles De Gaulle airport and upon entering the metro they were searching for tickets but could not use the kiosks because they only had cash. They were met with very friendly people who ensured them that they could sell them three day passes for the entire weekend that they were spending in paris, but after paying 30 euros for each “pass,’ they soon realised that they had been scammed because each “pass” was in fact only a way one ticket. We would hate to see anyone else fall victim to this trap.
Next is a common scam that occurs in several places all around Paris. IF YOU SEE SOMEONE OFFERING YOU A GOLD RING – CONTINUE WALKING. The plot of this scam is that the beggar has a stash of worthless “gold rings,” in their possession and when they see a target approaching, they drop one of these rings on the ground. As the tourist walks past, the beggar picks up the ring asking if the tourist has dropped their ring or piece of jewellery. This is a ploy to grab the tourists attention and from here the scene may play out in a couple different ways. If you fall victim to accepting the ring they will then demand money for their property (not accepting the ring back,) or if you insist that it is not your piece of jewellery, they have already caught your attention and will then continue to hound you for money. Stay away from shiny objects!
The “good samaritans,” may not be new news to frequent travellers or city goers. This type of scam happens in cities all over the world, and is not specific to Paris. Although, because Paris is indeed a big city, this is one that tourists often encounter. The thing about these “helpful,” citizens is that they usually travel in packs and contrary to their facades, are anything but helpful. For example if you are trying to hail a taxi or walk into the metro with a lot of a baggage and a group of three or four men offer their assistance – despite the fact that it seems as if they have good intentions, I assure you they do not. While two or three will in fact help you load your bags into a taxi or carry them down the flight of stairs into the metro, the other two will have a field day stealing your wallet and other valuables while your attention is focused somewhere else. Don’t get us wrong here, we’re not saying that truly good people do not exist in Paris, however for the most part, you have to be on guard. It is better to refuse the help and be safe, then be sorry later on.
This trick has been known to occur most often in the Montmarte area, so if you are planning to visit Sacred Heart Cathedral in your travels – this is a good one to keep in mind! Variations of this trick may in fact be the most frightening of all of the pickpocket scams. The lesser version of this trick involves the pickpocket tying a rope to your finger (the beginning of a “magic trick” that has no real end,) just in hopes of grabbing your attention and distracting you from their accomplice long enough or you to be pick-pocketed. However, in more severe cases this trick has been known to end more dramatically and at a higher loss to the tourist. These pickpockets have been reported to tie the string around the finger of the tourist, and once they have them loured in, wrap the string tighter and tighter and refuse to let the tourist go until they have led the scammers to an ATM and have emptied the contents of their bank account. Moral of this story? Never let anyone attach themselves to you in any way shape or form.
The deaf and mute scam is another one that has been reported very frequently as of late – but is also one of the easiest to spot. These are people that you often will see advocating on the street corners or regularly populated areas such as outside metro stations. Most commonly they will carry around signs or white boards in which they present to the passer-bys reading “I am deaf and need money to support a special school,” or other phrases along those lines. Another common ploy is using children to attract the attention of tourists. They will have the children being the ones to approach you, as lets be honest, more often than not we are more likely to stop in pity of a child than an adult. However more often than not, just minutes after handing over a donation to these “mute” people, you will here them discussing their plans amongst themselves. They are not actually deaf or mute, but have come up with (a rather genius) charity ploy that plays on the emotions of everyday Paris goers. To avoid losing your money this way, only give donations to charities that have legal proof that they are government verified.
Paris, France had repeatedly been placed in the top 5 most likely cities to be pick pocketed in the world. However, this should only serve as a reminder to be more cautious of where you keep your valuables when you are travelling. After all, Paris has also been ranked in the top 5 most beautiful cities of the world. The pickpockets should not deter you from a beautiful vacation in Paris, but all in all, the more educated you are of the scams, the better you can protect yourself!