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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 Lafayette....you 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

Have you ever seen or be victim of one of these scam (in Paris or elsewhere)?

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      anonymous 3 years ago

      After travelling the world for 30 years the scammers finally got me twice in Paris. Once with the game where you guess which black disc has a white dot on the underside (out of three)and the gold ring scam. I can't believe it ! It has turned me off Paris. I no it's my own naivety but I hate feeling that I always have to be alert for pick pockets and con me/ women while I am on holiday. Why don't the police crack down on these criminals and if found guilty deport them ? I saw one young woman lose 200 euros in 2 mins near Sacre coeur I felt terrible for her as it is so much money.

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      Anja Toetenel 3 years ago from The Hague, the Netherlands

      I once was victim of a Scam in Zrich, Switserland. It's called the ball scam, they have three baskets or something like it, put a ball under one of them, then switch and switch and make you guess under which the ball is. NEVER do this, you will ALWAYS guess wrong. They present it like a bet so you give 50 and get 100 if you guess right, and lose if you got it wrong... Grrrrr... well I learned my lesson, I was 19 or so when this happened to me!

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      Nathalie Roy 4 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      @anonymous: Yes gypsies are really a big problem here in France, not only for tourists. Good that you son in law reacted. But when alone the best is to enter a store and wait a bit because they often call their friends in reinforcement. Unfortunately when they get caught nothing is done.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      gy4/2013 Paris, bands of gypsie youths age 12-17 roam tourist areas. My daughter and son and granddaughter walking together...by the Louvre.. Youths targeted granddaughter and muscled their way between father and daughter . He retaliatedand bumped them out of the way they swore at him and cursed him...Louvre employees on strike because of tourist harassment. Huge fields of homeless near the airport.

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      Fiorenza 4 years ago from UK

      This sort of things goes on a lot in Rome too. I was warned by a friend's daughter who was mobbed by women with babies. On my own trip while walking to the forum on the main road in daylight, a man 'on crutches' pretended to blunder in to me, luckily I was able to jump out of his way. He then nimbly walked off carrying the crutches, with a big grin as if to say "You can't blame me for trying".

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I was scammed today at the Sacre Coeur funicula on the way down. I used my train ticket on the way up and on the way down it did not work. There are ticket machines there to buy your metro ticket back and also use the funicula with the same ticket. A man at the top directed us to the machines and gave us the tickets directly. We gave him the cash and we were able to use it for the funicula. Of course when we scanned it through the machine at the Metro station it did not work, so we had to buy another set of tickets for the metro. Darn it, should have known better.

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      Paula7928 4 years ago

      Very interesting! I have not been to Paris since about 1999. I imagine the scams have changed by now. I love Paris by the way!

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      rawwwwwws lm 5 years ago

      great lens, just created a summer travel lens for France, definitely going add this to featured lenses!

    • Art-Aspirations profile image

      Art-Aspirations 5 years ago

      Yes, I have friends who were hit with the gold ring scam on the Champs-Elysees last year. The scammer was an elderly woman. Too bad they hadn't read your lens first!

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      Lindrus 5 years ago

      Very helpful and informative lens! I'm sure these scams can happen in other cities as well, so thanks for the heads up!

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      Anthony Godinho 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is a very helpful lens, for tourists, highlighting common scams in Paris. I guess scams are increasing more and more, even more so over the internet. But as a tourist, I guess it's quite easy to get caught up in these scams because the approach is often that of soliciting help. Thanks for sharing this with us. Blessings! :)

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      I do not know if scams are more common place today or just more obvious to us now but my gosh but there sure is a lot of it out there. Excellent article for those travelling to Paris in the future.

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      June Campbell 6 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      This is a good resource. I have sent the link to my friend who is leaving for Paris tomorrow.

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