Europe France Paris

3 Scams you need to avoid in Paris

By on February 24, 2015

I had been dreaming of visiting Paris for a very long time; the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, The Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, the French language, but little did I know that Paris has its fair share of troublemakers (and I say that in the nicest possible way). There are people and groups of people in Paris (and most likely in other parts of France and other European countries) that are scammers and just cannot be trusted.

Before I arrived in Paris, I researched and was aware of the many pickpockets that are around Europe that will steal your camera, your money and sometimes your passport too! When visiting Paris our tour guide warned us about a few tricks and scams that we should avoid and not fall victim to.

In writing this post I am hoping you to give you fair warning and some tips to avoid, so when you make your first trip to Paris, you will be aware and prepared!

1. The String Scam or The Paris Friendship Bracelet Scam

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Where does this scam take place?

On your way up the hill to the beautiful church, the Sacré Coeur.

What is this scam?

When you are on your way up the hill to the beautiful monument Sacré Coeur you need to keep this in mind. Bad French men will run a STRING SCAM (also known as the Paris Friendship bracelet scam). They will grab your arm, wrist and/or fingers (especially women) to wrap around a piece of coloured string just like a bracelet. Once it is around your wrist, they will demand that you pay a fee for it (something ridiculous like 20 euros, which is obviously not what it’s worth), and if you refuse payment they will get angry and follow you until you do.

How can you avoid this scam?

Fortunately, our tour guide warned us about this scam and I quickly walked past with my hands in my pockets and firmly said NO. Make sure you watch out, watch your things and get past quick!

2. The Eiffel Tower Souvenirs Scam

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Where does this scam take place?

This exact spot (pictured above); this spot is the perfect place to view the Eiffel Tower by day and it is also spectacular by night! Just a warning that at night it is particularly busy, not so busy during the day!

What is this scam?

This is not really a major scam but just more or less something you need to be aware of. When we were viewing the Eiffel Tower at night, a Frenchman tried to sell us “gold” and “silver” Eiffel Tower souvenirs kept on a silver circular ring, which they jingled to get your attention and hopefully “convince” you to buy one. If they see you eyeing them off, it is likely they will come up to you straight away and won’t go away until your purchaseone!

How can you avoid this scam?

I advise that you probably should not buy them, just look away and ignore and pretend you are busy taking photos! You can always buy one of those souvenirs elsewhere! In my opinion, your photos of the magnificent structure are definitely enough!

3. Sign a petition scam

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Where does this scam take place?

At this exact spot (pictured above) and the area surrounding the Eiffel Tower.

What is this scam?

You need to watch out for the gypsies hanging around. They will try to get you to sign a petition for a “good cause” and will tell you it won’t cost anything, but once you sign, they will demand money from you and will not leave you alone until you pay them!

How can I avoid this scam?

Make sure you say a firm and definite NO when they approach you, and then walk away.

Witnessing my first Pickpocket

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Where did this story take place?

On the steps of the Palais Garnier (the main opera house in Paris).

What happened?

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Outside the Palais Garnier was this man; a very talented Frenchman who was entertaining us with beautiful classical music on the piano (I am a musician and play piano so for me this was just amazing!). As many tourists and other French people were sitting on the steps of the Palais Garnier watching intently, the pianist all of a sudden STOPPED. I was wondering what was happening, and as I turned around I saw a gypsy pickpocketer trying to steal something from someone’s bag and the pianist ran after her and chased her away! After that we all clapped in amazement, shock and also thankfulness for what he had done.

He then spoke in French and English, asking everyone to “please watch your bags, there are pickpockets around who will steal your things”. When I was there, I was sitting on the steps with my bag and camera bag around on my front, which is a great way to make sure you are safe from that ever happening!

Want more information?

The absolute best article I have found regarding tourist scams is Just The Flight, and they have posted this amazing infographic giving all the information you need!

Here is the link to: 40 Tourist Scams to Avoid This Summer

Share your thoughts

1. COMMENT if you have a really interesting pickpocket story!

2. Have you ever encountered these scams in Paris before? What did you do to avoid them?

3. COMMENT if you know of any other scams in Paris tourists need to be aware of.

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4 Comments
  1. Christina Guan

    February 24, 2015

    Great post! Unfortunately the whole string scam isn’t exclusive to Sacre-Coeur, although it’s super common in that area. Pro-tip: I’ve found that pretending you don’t speak English helps to keep the petitioners away haha 🙂

    There’s a bunch of other scams as well… sometimes they’ll just ask you for a pen as a distraction then attempt to steal something out of your bag while it’s open. I didn’t get pickpocketed in Paris, but I did in Rome… ughhh Roman pickpocketers are so cunning! They stole my wallet as I entered a metro train, then slipped out of the train just as the doors closed.

    • Bec

      February 24, 2015

      Thanks! Fortunately I didn’t get pickpocketed at all while I was away. When I was in Barcelona, our group was being followed by someone and I tightly clung onto my bag!! Ooh that’s a good idea! I will try the no speaking English if that situation happens again! So sorry that you were pickpocketed! They are definitely cunning and crafty! What happened after you realised your wallet was gone? Did you lose much money for the rest of your trip?

  2. ashleawheeler

    February 25, 2015

    I saw all of these in Paris and had a particularly bad experience with the friendship bracelet one at Sacre Coeur. Nothing got stolen but lets just say it scared me off visiting Paris ever again.

    One thing to point out is that the petition scam is also used as a distraction, as the gyspies go through your pockets or bags while you’re signing the petition!

    • Bec

      February 25, 2015

      Thanks for the tip! Yeah, they got a bit pushy with some of the people on our tour with the “friendship bracelet” scam. Fortunately, I pretty much ran past and yelled NO! It’s so sad how a beautiful country and city can all of a sudden turn people off, due to some not so nice and desperate people. Barcelona for me is where I got completely scared off ever going there again.

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Bec
Sydney, AU

Hi there! I'm Bec, creator of the travel blog The World As Bec Sees It. I'm a 26-year old Primary Teacher from Sydney, Australia with a severe case of wanderlust who believes it's possible to work in the job of your dreams and still find time to travel the world!

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