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10 Sneaky Paris Scams You Need to Know: Free Bonus Tips to Avoid Them!

It goes without saying that Paris is one of the world’s most romantic cities and that it is also a very popular travel destination. 

On the other hand, this does not mean that scams cannot hit here as well.

If you’re planning a trip to Paris, you’ll want to make sure to be aware of the most common Paris scams and know how to avoid them.

Whether it’s the gold ring scam, fake petition scams, or friendship bracelet scam — the point here is to know what’s out there and how to avoid becoming a victim.

In this guide, we have covered the most common tourist scams in Paris and tips on how best to avoid them and make sure your time in the city of lights is memorable for all the right reasons.

Common tourist scams in Paris  
1. Pickpocketing
2. Ring Dropper
3. Friendship Bracelet
4. Fake Petition
5. Fake Taxis
6. Free Roses
7. Overly helpful locals
8. Free wifi
9. Misdirection
10. Bike Stealing
11. Fake metro tickets
12. Cup and ball trick

1. Pickpockets in Paris 

Pickpocketing is a big problem for tourists in Paris, and it happens a lot.

Thieves work in busy places, pretending to be part of the crowd and stealing from people who don’t realize it.

Pickpockets are usually in places where lots of tourists go, like the Eiffel Tower, champs-elysees, and the Louvre Museum.

They can be found on crowded public transportation, like the Metro, and in busy areas with lots of people walking, like sidewalks and crosswalks.

Pickpockets might try to distract you by bumping into you, acting like they want to help you, giving you a map or directions, or starting a fight with someone in the crowd.

They often work in groups, where one person will try to distract you while another person steals your phone, wallet, or purse from your pocket or hand.

How to avoid pickpockets in Paris?

  • To avoid being pickpocketed in Paris, make sure to keep them in a safe pocket or a bag with a zipper. This is important in places with many visitors, like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Champs-Elysees, and public transportation.
  • Watch out for people who may try to distract you while someone else steals your things.
  • Be cautious when using public transportation, especially on crowded lines like Lines 1, 4, and 12, where thieves might try to steal from you.
  • To keep your stuff safe, keep your bags closed and hold them close to you. Don’t put them on the ground or in shopping carts.
  • Protect your money and passport by using hidden pockets, and keep your phone safe with a wrist strap.

2. Gold Ring Scam

What if you’re strolling down the Seine with a croissant in your hand, admiring the beauty of the City of Lights, when a friendly face approaches you out of nowhere, holding out a golden ring? 

“Monsieur, have you lost this? Good luck,” they say with a sincere smile, and their story is believable. 

But wait before deciding this “kind act” could become more expensive than just a croissant, dear traveler.

This is a famous gold ring scam where a kind person, usually with children, “finds” a gold ring near you, but it is just a cheap piece of metal that isn’t worth anything. 

They want you to take the ring, claiming it’s not theirs or it’s against their religious beliefs to wear jewelry.

When you’re unsure, they push harder, telling you about their struggles or telling you that if you say no, you’ll be cursed.

You feel obligated to give a gift. You offer a small sum of money but then end up giving more money than planned.

How can you avoid this scam?

If someone approaches you with a fake gold ring, do not speak to them, pretend they are not there, and walk away. 

Scammers may attempt to trick you by forcing you to look the other way while they take your belongings, such as dropping something or asking you for directions. 

If you are asked to sign a paper and then asked to give them money, do not sign anything. 

Be especially cautious in areas where many tourists go, like the Seine River bridges and near popular tourist spots. Be very cautious in these areas. 

3. Friendship Bracelet Scam 

Scammers in Paris use lies and colorful threads to trick tourists into buying friendship bracelets in crowded places. 

People who are trying to trick others will talk to them in a nice way, usually near busy places. 

Then, they will fasten a bracelet on the person’s wrist without them noticing. 

Some people say things are traditional, lucky, or important to a culture, but they really just want money. 

The bracelets are cheap; however, the scammers make up a story to justify the high prices. 

Be careful of strangers in busy tourist spots, and just remember, real cultural experiences don’t usually involve strangers making bracelets for you.

How can you avoid the Friendship Bracelet scam in Paris?

If someone comes to you with a friendship bracelet and says it will bring you good luck, staying away from them is better. 

Say no, thank you and leave. 

Put your hands in your pockets or keep them by your side so that the scammers can’t put the bracelet on you.

Don’t look the scammers in the eyes because they might think you want to talk to them. 

Pay attention to what’s around you, and don’t stop in crowded places where people might try to trick you.

4. Petition scam Paris

In the City of Lights, the “Paris petition scam” is a way of tricking people who are on vacation by using their kindness and willingness to help. 

Some young people pretend to be disabled and ask for money for good causes using clipboards. 

They ask for assistance with major environmental issues, animals, and the deaf community. 

The scam works by showing you something quickly to make you feel emotional and then getting you to sign something quickly.

Once you get the signature, they pressure the victims to give money, even after they said they wouldn’t. 

People’s donations often do not reach their intended destination and end up in the hands of scammers instead.

While harmless at first glance, the scam can involve pickpocketing accomplices who divert attention during the interaction.

How can you avoid this scam?

If you are asked to sign a petition and refuse, simply say “no thank you” and walk away. 

It is easy to avoid scams if you refuse to speak or sign anything. 

Be aware of what is happening around you, especially in a busy tourist area. 

Watch out for anyone carrying a clipboard or trying to get you to sign something. 

If you feel that someone is trying to talk to you and you don’t want to talk to them, just walk away and don’t sign anything.

5. Paris taxi scam

Traveling in Paris can be a confusing experience, especially for first-time visitors. 

Unfortunately, there is a Paris taxi scam going on among well-known taxis. 

When you arrive at the Charles de Gaulle airport, be wary of people offering you a taxi ride. It’s recommended that you stick to the official taxi stands. 

These taxi drivers may speak to you in your language and be very charming, but their objective is to drive you away in cars with no meter and charge you very high prices. 

Even in official taxis, messing with the meter can be problematic, so be careful. 

Some taxi drivers try to make extra money by messing with the meter, claiming card readers are broken, or taking long routes.

In a new city, if you don’t know how to navigate, some taxi drivers may try to take advantage of you by taking extra-long routes or by lying about roads being closed to make more money.

Tips to avoid it

  • You can find taxis at the airport or by flagging them down on the street. Look for a bright taxi sign with a meter on the rooftop.
  • The price of a taxi ride from the airport to the city is fixed and does not fluctuate. Check these prices before you leave, and make sure you receive them.
  • Whenever possible, use a credit card to pay for your trip. This way, you can record your transactions and avoid problems with cash.
  • If something is wrong, refuse the ride and look for a real taxi. Ask police officers or visit tourist information centers for help.

6. The Overly Helpful Local

Another common scam is the so-called “Overly Helpful Local,” who tricks tourists with his or her charm and false helpfulness. 

These friendly people approach you, usually in tourist areas or places where you can catch a bus or a train. 

They speak English very well and help you by giving directions, suggesting places to eat, or helping you with your bags without asking. 

Finding commonalities with others increases trust. They may share the same hometown, like the same travel destinations, or have similar family stories. 

This makes the victim feel relaxed and not on alert. A “problem” might appear as if you lost your wallet, got sick suddenly, or missed your train ticket. 

These friendly people, who are now acting excited and hurried, suggest a “solution”—usually paying for a made-up service or something that doesn’t exist. 

How not to get trapped?

Say “No thanks” if someone you do not know approaches you, especially in popular tourist locations. 

Scammers may ask you to sign a piece of paper and then ask you for money. 

Avoid people with clipboards asking you for signatures. 

Scammers often try to deceive people who aren’t paying attention or who are under stress. If you feel uncomfortable or think something is wrong, it’s best to leave. 

Scammers will try to trick you repeatedly if they think you are unsure. 

They will also try to trick you if you look like a tourist. Act and dress like a local to avoid scammers, who usually target people who look like tourists.

7. Stealing Your Bike (Bait and Bolt)

Cycling on Paris’ bumpy roads can be a lot of fun, but it doesn’t have to be.

Bait and Bolt is a crime plan that tricks tourists who aren’t paying attention to their bikes. 

Imagine you’re visiting one of the most famous places in the world, Paris, and you’re admiring the city’s beauty. 

Someone from your neighborhood comes up to you and offers you a bike lock without asking for it. 

They like your chosen bike and pretend to be concerned about your safety. 

They play with the lock to make it look tighter. Then they disappear into the crowd, and you don’t know it. 

You return a few hours later, and your bike is gone; the lock is cut, and you can’t find it.

Bike theft happens on more than 13 bike paths in Paris every day. 

It’s important to register your bike and use a strong lock. A fake lock looks real, but it breaks easily.

How to save your bike?

  • Get a strong lock that is hard to break; Don’t use weak locks that can be easily cut, like cable or flimsy ones.
  • Make sure to lock the whole bike, not just the wheel, so thieves can’t take parts easily.
  • Before you put the lock on your bike, make sure the place where you put your bike is not broken. Thieves sometimes break it on purpose to steal bikes in Paris.
  • Putting a special mark on your bike can make it less likely to be stolen and more likely to be found if it is stolen. You can get a bike passport or number from bike shops or organizations.
  • Don’t park your bike in places that are lonely or don’t have much light. Instead, park your bike in places with many people and good lighting.

8. Clear cup scam

The Cup and Ball Trick Scam in Paris is a common scam that tricks tourists, especially near famous tourist spots like the Champs-de-Mars park by the Eiffel Tower. 

The scam is about a man who uses a cup and ball to trick people and asks them to guess which cup the ball is under.

The cup-and-ball man works with a group of people, making it hard for the victim to pay attention to what is happening.

The man might act like he can’t figure out where the ball is, so the other person feels like they can win the game.

Right before the victim tries to guess which cup is the right one, the man moves the cups around, so it’s hard for the victim to figure out.

The person loses their money because the scammer distracts them.

Tips to avoid falling victim to the Cup and Ball Trick Scam

  • The best course of action is to ignore the scammer and walk away without engaging in the game.
  • Be cautious around major tourist sites and avoid engaging in games or activities with strangers.
  • Remain alert and mindful of those around you, as some might be involved in the deception.
  • Store your valuables safely away from prying eyes and keep them out of sight.

9. Fake Metro Tickets

The Paris subway is a good way to get around the city, but it’s also a place where tourists can be tricked. 

Usually sold in train stations or around famous locations, fake metro tickets can get travelers into serious trouble and result in costly fines.

Fake tickets may look like real ones, copying the official RATP logo and colors. 

However, you might see differences in the fonts, printing, or magnetic strips when you look closer. 

Fraudsters usually work around popular tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, or Gare du Nord, focusing on people who don’t know how to buy tickets. 

Inspectors who walk around the Metro can quickly find them, which can lead to big fines (€50 or more) and possible wait times.

Tips to avoid falling victim to the Cup and Ball Trick Scam

  • It is advisable to exclusively purchase tickets from authorized sources, such as designated retailers, official RATP ticket machines, and ticket booths. Steer clear of people who seem too good to be true or street vendors.
  • Check the validity of your ticket by swiping it at the yellow machines next to the turnstiles each time you enter the Metro. In doing so, the ticket for the planned trip is activated.
  • If someone approaches you with tickets, gently decline and say you already have one. Be wary of unsolicited offers. Do not carry on discussions that can cause you to lose focus on your surroundings.
  • Inform RATP staff or security personnel immediately if you see someone selling phony tickets. This is a sign of suspicious activity.

10. Restaurants Overcharging Tourists

In Paris, many eateries defraud visitors by overcharging them. 

This scam targets people unaware of standard dining prices and customs and is most common in tourist hotspots like the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Élysées. 

They could try to convince you by not disclosing the prices before you place your order, charging you more because you are a tourist, or adding unnecessary items to your bill. 

Sometimes, victims are scared to confront issues because they fear they will not be able to communicate or will not comprehend the culture of the other person. 

This silence facilitates the con, which later causes a great deal of resentment in the eyes of many.

How to save yourself from this?

  • Travelers visiting Paris should exercise caution and diligence to avoid being taken advantage of at restaurants. 
  • Before you go, research restaurants online, read reviews from other patrons and see the food prices by looking at their menus.
  • Before agreeing to anything, make sure you ask to see the menu and prices. 
  • Keep an eye out for prices that seem suspiciously unclear or missing, and ask about the price before placing your order if you are unsure. 
  • Skip the pricey set menus and opt for individual dishes.
  • Check the bill for any mistakes before paying it, and never hesitate to make a courteous inquiry if something seems wrong.

How to report if scammed?

If you were tricked in Paris and need to tell someone about it, there are different ways to report it.

  • File a complaint online if you’ve been scammed on the internet. Use the Thésée platform for internet scams, the Pharos portal for reporting bad content on the internet, or the Fraud Notification System (FNS) to report fraud to OLAF.
  • You can go to a police station or gendarmerie in person to report a problem. 
  • You can also use the online system to file a complaint on the French national police and gendarmerie website.
  • If you are worried about dealing with the police, you can call the victim support service, France Victimes, for help.
  • If someone tricks you while you are on vacation, you can tell the people at the local tourist office, like the Paris Tourist Office.
  • You can visit your nation’s closest embassy or consulate if your identity card or passport has been stolen.

Featured Image: Nomadewifi.com

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