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Tourist scams in Paris

Updated on November 30, 2014

Avoid the most common tourist scams in Paris, France

Scams in Paris: a warning from me to you about common scams in Paris, targeting unsuspecting tourists. Paris, like every major touristic destination, is home to scammers and thieves targeting unsuspecting tourists. Don't fall for the most common scams in Paris. I will update the list as soon as I am aware of a new scam, big or small. Beware, these scammers are usually professional and really good. Most of them are members of criminal organized rings, gypsies mainly, but not always. They usually hang near the most frequented Paris attractions. Don't be a victim of scams in Paris.

photo by comedy_nose used under CC license

The Louis Vuitton scam in Paris

This scam I have been seeing it for a couple of years now, usually (but not limited to) on Champs-Elysees avenue near / across the street from the Louis Vuitton boutique.

Where: On Champs-Elysees, near Louis Vuitton. Personnaly I have always seen this scam take place there but it is certainly being played elsewhere, near any of the high end fashion brands store.

Who are the scammers: usually well dressed, articulated Asiatic women, with a decent English.

How it works: The women will ask you to go to the store for them and buy a Louis Vuitton handbag (or whatever designer) for them. They will tell you that they already bought a couple and the store refuse to sell them anymore (they will tell you that the store limit the sale of bags to 2 or 3 per customer, which false by the way).

While talking to you, they will show you a pile of cash (usually US$ or Euros) and handed it to you so you can go in and buy the bag. So you think, where is the scam??? After all they are paying you? Well sorry but the cash is counterfeit. So you go in, try to pay with counterfeit money and voila, you are in for a ride with the Gendarme. Or, and that may happen, you go in and manage to pass the counterfeit money...helping whitout knowing a scammer ring.

But why does this work? I mean it is obvious! Most people are nice, and helpful. Many will be just happy to help those "poor tourists". Yes you say, but the store knows about fake money. Yes they do, but from time to time, cashier get lax. And also, some of the helpful Samaritan, keep the money and pay the bag with their credit card...and are in for a bad surprise later on when they try to exchange the money. If the scammers manage to get a couple of bags a week, it is a well worth criminal activity. And since these scammer are part of gangs, imagine the numbers of high end stuff they can scam on a month.

Three Card Monte game scam in Paris

This is rather new here in Paris. Started less than 2 years ago, but it is a well known scam worldwide. Usually it involved at least 3 scammers, the one that host the game and 2 lucky "friends" winning lots of money and trying to bring real targets in the game. Don't play, you won't win. It is all scam, and played out to lure the unsuspected tourists (and locals). You will lose! Once again, mainly done by gypsies, but don't be fooled if it is hosted by others. You will find these games where there is a lot of affluence: Tour Eiffel, Saint-Michel among other. Police are shutting them down, but they just move and start again.

Here's a video I found about the Three Card Monte scam, it explain how it works (it is in English):

Monte game scam: how it works

gold ring scam
gold ring scam | Source

The gold ring scam in Paris

This is my "favorite" if I can say. And if well played you will never know what hit you!

Where: Anywhere with lots of tourists: Champs-Elysees, near Tour Eiffel, Notre-Dame de Paris, Galeries get the picture.

Who are the scammers: Gypsies (sorry to say, but here they are mostly organized in criminal rings. That is how they live)

How it works:Targets are women. The Gypsy (most of the time a guy) will look on the ground and pick up something. Then will turn to you and ask you if you lost this "gold" ring. While talking to you he will show you the "gold" ring. Of course it is not yours, you will say no. He will then offer it to you and walk away. Then come back and ask you for spare change to buy a coffee. Now this is what will happen:

1- you give some money. If you do he will ask for more and more because a gold ring is worth way more than a coffee. He will harass you and may have friends come and help him.

2-You refuse. He will harass you and friends may come help him.

3-You give enough money, he will walk away happy and you will keep the nice "gold" ring thinking you got a nice deal.

But why does this work? How can the scammer make money by giving me a gold ring Your "gold" ring is copper. A very nice fake, it has even the carat punch and stuff. But you can get these for pennies.

What to do: do not accept the ring in the first place. If the gypsy harass you, enter in a store. But the best defense is just walk and ignore But watch your wallet......

The "Do you speak English" scam in Paris

And its metro/subway variant

Well it is not really a scam, because in that case you will (or not) give money freely. You just should be aware that by doing so you are helping criminal organisations.

Where: Once again, everywhere in Paris there is lots of tourists: museums, cafe, metro, monuments.

Who are the scammers: Gypsies, both men and women.

How it works: They will approach you by asking "do you speak English" knowing full well that people are helpful creatures and will most likely say yes thinking they are going to help someone in need. Then she/he will give you a card with something written in English on it. a sob story about anything and everything: brother being help in Bosnia needs money; she/he has many children to feed; she/he needs money for medical care (medical care are free in France by the way). All these are false, they want your money for the criminal organisation.

Alternative version:You'll be sitting in the subway, RER or at a coffee, someone will just put a card next to you hoping you will read it and give money.

What you should do? Ignore them, say no and walk away. And watch your pockets! Please do not give money. You will be helping criminals if you do.

© 2011 Nathalie Roy


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