Travel Scams In Paris Pickpockets & More!

First off, I don’t mean to sound negative.  And I don’t want to come off as a snobby tourist, but there’s a few things that happened in Paris that bothered me.  Now these common Paris scams happen in every popular tourist place, but it still bugs me that there are people doing this kind of stuff, and are not actively getting arrested (or their butt’s kicked!).

Travel Scams In Paris Pickpockets. Common travel scams Paris pickpockets and more. Mainly in busy tourist areas. What we experienced, what we saw; both good & bad. and how to avoid scams. Read more on WagonersAbroad.com

I also want to point out that Paris is one of my all time favorite cities.  Plenty of great memories spanning over 20+ years, so it’s not that I’m anti-Paris or anti-France.  Again, these things and scams that happen everywhere, and I’ll cover some precautions to take.  OK, with that intro, let’s get into it.

These are all global travel scams!

Common Tourist Scam 1 – Three Card Monty (a betting scam)

Run Around the Trocadero Gardens

You’ve probably seen this in movies or TV shows, and it still surprises me when I see people fall for it.

The setup

There’s a guy (The Mark) with a folding table, and he’s got three cards, say two Aces, and a Queen.  After some dextrous moving of the hands, The Mark is supposed to find the Queen.  Sounds easy right?  It’s not, it’s a card scam. (Note: this scam can also involve 3 cups and a ball that the target is supposed to find.)

How does the betting scam work?

Well it works because a passerby watches the game, and sees a guy winning (“He just won 50 Euros!”), and it appears easy.  There’s a few people betting on the outcome, and everyone but the card dealer is winning, and that is what makes it so tempting.  The kicker is that everyone playing is in on the scam.  The dealer, the guy winning, and the bettors.  So that when an unsuspecting person tries to win, the odds of winning are zero.

Best way to avoid the scam

Don’t even play!  Seriously, don’t even bother.  There…I just saved you 50 Euros!

I didn’t see this scam this go around, but Heidi and the kids did in the Trocadero Park, so beware.

 

Common Tourist Scam 2 – Taking a Survey/Asking for a Donation

Carrousel Arc de Triomphe in the park near the Louvre Paris

This has happened to us a few times, and this one sticks out because they were very aggressive towards Heidi on this occasion.  It was at the Carrousel Arc de Triomphe in the park, near the Louvre.

The setup

While you’re walking in a park or in a big touristy area, you’ll be approached by a group of people who have clipboards, and are interested in asking you questions for a survey, or they’re looking for donations, or whatever.

Here’s what happened to us.  All five of us were walking from point A to point B, and were going through a park.  Grandma Linda and the kids were ahead of me by 40 feet, I was by myself, and Heidi was about 20 feet behind me taking photos.  There was a group of young women with clipboards, and they started approaching me asking about taking a survey.  I immediately and loudly told them, “I’m not interested!  Get the hell away from me!”.  (Technically that’s not what I said, but I’ve sanitized it — this is a family blog.)  The Scammer Pack left me alone, and walked away.

As the group left me, a lady who happened to be walking somewhat close to me laughed at how I shut down the scammers.  She said it really bothered her how blatant they are.  I agreed, and happened to turn around, and I saw the Scammer Pack circling around Heidi.  I then very loudly yelled, “Back off!”, while pointing at the Ring Leader.  Luckily they dispersed because they were physically touching Heidi and I was fully prepared to wade in there with my size 13s and my super-size can of American Whoop-Ass.

Heidi knew what was going down, but was trapped

As Heidi recounted the situation, the scammers started with one and then about 5 more surrounded her.  She clutched her phone in her pocket and kept her hands on her purse over around her neck.  They then all closed in and started to bumb and push, and using those clipboards to block her view, they were trying to pickpocket her.  They were actually able to get her purse open, when she let go of it to push one of them back (it was on the front of her), but they didn’t get anything.

How does the scam work?

Well as I mentioned, they operate as a pack, and while someone is pushing their clipboard in your face or bumping you, the others are trying to figure out where your wallet/valuables (phone, watch, earrings, necklaces, and so on) are.  These were Paris pickpockets!

Best way of avoiding this?  The biggest thing I recommend is not to look like a tourist.  Be aware of your environment, and don’t look like a victim.  Keep your head up, and watch your surroundings.  I know it’s really easy to bury your head in a map, phone, or guide book, but you must keep your wits about you.

And you must absolutely not take out your wallet or open your purse.  They can be very quick, so don’t give them money.  Guys:  Put your wallet in your front pocket, and not in the back pocket, or jacket pocket (unless it’s an interior pocket).  Ladies:  Put your purse under your jacket.  That way you can “hug yourself”, and make it difficult for the scammers.  Remember they want to be quick in and quick out.  Oh, and be loud.  I happen to have a big set of lungs, but if you don’t, wear a whistle.

Ugh!  Just thinking of what happened really bothers me.

 

Common Tourist Scam 3 – The Found Ring

Hanging out near Notre Dame Paris

You have the luck of the Irish, and some kind person wants to return a gold ring that was found right in front of you.

The setup

You’re walking along, or maybe you’re sitting on a park bench, and typically it’s an older woman approaches you, and points to a gold ring (My Precious!) just lying on the ground.  She gives it to you, and then wants some sort of reward for good deed.

This happened while I was walking with Anya, and as soon as I saw the old lady holding the ring, I just yelled, “No!”, and kept walking.

How does the scam work?

It works because the scammer plays on people’s desire to reward a good deed.  There’s also the element of the woman who approached us had a small child with her, and they were both dressed in poor clothes.  She’s trying to play on our generous Christmas spirit.

Best way to avoid the scam

The best way to avoid this scam is to be aware of your surroundings, and don’t take the ring if it’s offered.  If you’re walking, just keep walking and ignore the scammer.  If you’re sitting down, get up and walk away.  The ring is worthless, so if it’s dropped, it’s no big deal.

 

Common Tourist Scam 4 – Tickets

The Louvre Paris

In a big city like Paris with all of it’s attractions, there are inevitably going to be lines of people waiting to get inside.  It is highly recommended to purchase the “skip the line” passes for the museums.  Even in the winter lines were well more than an hour-long.  You really don’t want to waste your time in Paris standing in a line waiting do you?

The setup

You arrive at the attraction.  In our case, it was the Louvre, and we only wanted to go inside the gift shop, but the line to get in was crazy long.  We were approached by several people selling tickets to get in.

How does the scam work?

It works because the scammer is playing on the desire to visit a key site, and it’s always great when you can go to the front of the line, right?  Nobody likes waiting in line to buy tickets, especially when it’s a holiday, and it’s cold out.

Best way to avoid the scam

The best way to avoid being scammed is to buy your tickets online through a trusted vendor, skip the line.  Don’t even bother with those scammers selling pieces of paper.  I’m surprised they still try this scam, the Louvre is a popular attraction, so even if only one or two people buy their bogus tickets, they’re still way ahead.  Don’t fall for this one!

Common Tourist Scam 5 – Attracting an Audience

Look out for the Paris pickpockets!

The setup

You see some street performers doing magic, music, or something that causes a large crowd to gather.  While you’re enjoying the show, there are pickpockets going around trying to get your wallet, phone, or other valuables.

How does the scam work?

It works because you’re distracted, and your in a large group of people where possibly some jostling is normal.  You let your guard down, and that’s when they craftily get your goods.

Best way to avoid the scam

This is a general scam, and I don’t want to imply that the performers are in on the scam, but they could be.  So what do you do?  Be vigilant about your surroundings, and who is behind you, and what those people are doing.  Are you getting bumped?  Then they may be trying to rip you off.  Don’t put yourself in the middle of a large group of people (they work in teams).  Scammer A is bumping you whilst Scammer B is going for your stuff.

If you’re wearing a backpack, turn it around so that the pockets are directly in front of you.  As mentioned before, don’t put your phone/wallet in your back pocket.  And if you have a purse, keep it under a layer, and keep your hands/arms over it.

Paying Attention and Being Smart

OK, this isn’t a scam per se, but it does highlight the fact that sometimes situations can go sideways, and if one pays attention to what is going on, it’s possible to stay out of trouble before it even starts.

I’m probably going to get into hot water with my mom on this because we’re the “victims” in this story.  We weren’t being smart about the situation, and it came back to bite us.  So here’s what went down.

Lars and Anya had gone off on their own in search of some thrifting, and it was Heidi, Grandma Linda, and I walking to one of the Christmas markets.  As we were walking, there was a large intersection, with a lot of pedestrians.  Down one of the streets, a group of protesters wearing bright yellow vests emerged, and they were shouting/singing slogans in French.  (This is was the first warning sign.)

Paris protests yellow jackets in the city center

Still not being mindful of the situation

You may not know about what was going on (still going on by the way) all over France at the time, but there were protesters complaining about the French president, Macron, and his proposal of increasing the tax on fuel.  There were many groups across France, but were mainly centered in Paris.  Some of the protests were peaceful, but inevitably some ended up with property damage, fires lit, etc.  (We knew about the protests and protesters, and we ignored the sign.)

As we’re waiting to cross the street, Mom and I were on a pedestrian island watching what was going on.  It was like a show, and both of us were interested in the situation.  What wasn’t apparent to us was that there were police vans close to us, but I didn’t recognize them as belonging to the police (which was kinda stupid).  To me they only looked like vans.  Plus, we didn’t see any police in uniform, so there didn’t appear to be anyone to have conflict with the protestors.

Wrong!  The police were there, we just didn’t see them.  One of the protestors threw something at one of the vans, and hit a window, and things escalated quickly.  Mom and I were still watching what was going on, and we started seeing and hearing flash bangs.  (Yet another warning sign!)

We still didn’t see the police, but they were obviously there.  Heidi had crossed the street, and continued around the corner, but Mom and I were still watching.  It was when we started seeing the clouds of tear gas that we crossed the street.  But we were still watching the situation unfold.  Once I saw a tear gas canister get launched in our direction, and subsequently picked up by a protester and thrown back, it dawned on me that we shouldn’t be anywhere near this place.

Paris protests yellow jackets in the city center

Really ignoring the signs

I saw a smoke cloud approach us, and we were on our way around the corner when it hit us.  And it wasn’t smoke, but tear gas.  Instantly that stuff makes it very difficult to breathe and my eyes are watering profusely.  I grab Mom’s shoulder, and we stumble around the corner where there are no protestors or tear gas, and we’re coughing and crying (along with a bunch of other tourists), and trying to recover.  Heidi thought we had been behind her the entire time, so when we weren’t with her, she came back looking for us, and saw us in this state and asked us what happened.

After a few minutes the effects of the tear gas had subsided, and we walked away from the area.  Now if we (especially me) had paid attention to the warning signs, we wouldn’t have gotten caught up in all of that drama.  We knew what the protesters where about, and we knew that there had been some violence, but we ignored the warning signs and paid a bit for our stupidity.  Just 10 minutes later we were back to taking tourist photos and doing well.

Place Vendôme Paris Christmas decorations and lights

The takeaway is to be aware of dangerous situations, and the precursors that can quickly turn a regular experience into something more dangerous.  Let my stupidity be an example of what not to do!  Tear gas sucks!  It’s not minty or fruity…it’s awful.  The kids were fine out on their own and no incidents to speak of, it’s just us adults who got it this time.  Still they are teaching moments.

Conclusion

We had a great time in Paris, but it really bugs me that these scams are so common.  It tarnishes any area or city, and I wish the police were better able to crack down on these shady people.  We didn’t fall for any of the common Paris scams, but were negatively affected.

To prove I’m hot harboring any bad will, I’ll point out a particularly great experience I had while in Paris.  When Lars, Anya, and I were out riding our Lime scooters, we stopped in front of Notre Dame, and I was able to grab a nice pic of my (quickly growing up) kids.

Paris-2019-Lars-and-Anya-Notre-Dame

Are there any scams that you’ve seen while doing the tourist thing?  Let us know in the comments.

 

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Travel Scams In Paris Pickpockets. Common travel scams Paris pickpockets and more. Mainly in busy tourist areas. What we experienced, what we saw; both good & bad. and how to avoid scams. Read more on WagonersAbroad.com

4 thoughts on “Travel Scams In Paris Pickpockets & More!

  1. My son, Harrison got surrounded in the same area where Heidi did. It wasn’t the clipboard era, it was the ones that want to give you something for your wrist. Jeanne was the first one back to him as I had just physically pulled Hannah through them to avoid the surround. Jeanne might not be big but she has some vocals! 🤣 .We got through unscathed but it upset our entire day.

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