Generally speaking, Paris is a safe place to visit. However, there are a few common scams that could potentially tarnish your lovely experience in this city. Let’s look at some of the most common scams, so you can learn to avoid them.
In very touristic places, such as Notre Dame, Pont des Arts, Saint Michel, and Montmartre, insistent begging can take several different forms:
In this scam, someone approaches you and asks you to sign a petition to support a good cause, like ending the torture of children, for example. Sometimes the person appears to be mute, which softens your heart a little more. The person only asks for your signature, so you figure, why not just sign it? However, after you sign your name, the person will tell you that your signature is worthless unless you donate at least a few Euros to the campaign. Of course, the whole story is fake. To avoid being trapped, you just have to ignore people who try to hand you pieces of paper. If they insist, keep saying no and walk away – they’ll get tired quickly. In general, don’t take any object handed to you by a stranger; scammers know that you’ll feel more committed once they get something into your hands, so don’t let them!
In this scam, someone picks up a nice gold ring on the ground just in front of you, acting as if they just happened to find it there. The person pretends they can’t keep the ring, saying it’s too big for them, for example, and asks if you would like it. If you accept, the person then asks for some money in return (between 10 and 100€), saying that the ring is made of gold and is therefore quite valuable. As you might expect, the ring is a completely worthless fake. Avoiding this one is easy: Just refuse the conversation. It might feel a little rude, but it’s the best way to avoid getting pulled into the scam.
This trick, which involves the forced sale of string bracelets, is very common near the Sacré-Coeur. The approach is usually soft, with the scammer offering you a nice Brazilian bracelet. However, once the bracelet is on your wrist, the scammer will tell you that the bracelet is not free. Occasionally, the approach is harsher, with the scammer quickly tying the bracelet to your wrist without asking. To avoid this trap, try to keep you hands close to your body, or, even better, in your pockets, particularly if you see people around you holding these bracelets.
This scam often happens to people who are carrying a backpack or heavy luggage, or to people seated at a terrace. A person approaches you asking for directions, and unfolds a large map in front of you. The map blocks your view, so you don’t notice the person’s accomplice stealing stuff from your bags or table. If it happens to you, push the map away so that you can keep an eye on your belongings.
Pickpocketing is particularly common in the metro, so it’s a good idea to keep your pockets zipped and your handbags shut and tucked under your arm. If you’re carrying a backpack, put it down on the floor at your feet (which creates more space for other passengers anyway). Keep your luggage in front of you and important belongings, such as passports and credit cards, close to your body, preferably in a zipped front pocket. Like in any big city, it’s also best to avoid ATMs located in completely deserted places, and have a quick look around for suspicious people before withdrawing any cash.
Parisian taxis have a light on top that turns green when they’re free (as shown in our picture), and red when they’re busy. Don’t get into any other car, even if it claims to be a taxi, and particularly if the driver approaches you when you’re queuing up. Otherwise, your fare will probably come as a very nasty surprise.
You might see people gambling in the streets with cards or cups on a piece of cardboard. At first, it may seem like a game that you could easily win and make some money, but the games are almost always rigged so that scammers always win. This is one of the oldest game on earth, called Bonneteau, don’t waste your money on it.