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How to Avoid the Common Scams in Paris

Google scams in Paris and there are countless articles surfaced. Indeed, the beautiful city of Paris is taunted by dozens of scams and with a slight negligence, your travel mood will be negatively affected after falling into these unscrupulous scams.

Like it or not, these wicked scammers will be there and trying to pull a fortune from all of us a tourist. All we can do were doing some reading about these scams and exercising extra precautions at a few particular attractions which these scammers love to linger.

Here are some of the Paris' notorious scams that we have witnessed during our trip, or have heard about from our friends who had been to Paris.

a) The string bracelet at Sacre Coeur

How to Avoid the Common Scams in Paris
Sacre Coeur - It is beautiful, yet it is full of people trying to scam you

Sacre Coeur is a beautiful Roman Basilica and a Roman Catholic Church located at the top of Montmarte. Not only the architectural aspect of the church is amazing, along with the painting of the Christ inside the heart, but the dome offers a breathtaking 360° view of city. It attracts thousands of visitors daily, and at the same time there are many seemingly friendly guys loitering around the staircase leading to the church, trying to prey the next target for a fortune. 

They are fast and tricky. As they walk toward you, they will try to reach your hands as a gesture of friendliness, then will tie and start braiding some strings on your hands, which they refer it as friendship bracelet. Sometimes they may get aggressive and pull your hands. 

Of course, nothing in the world comes free. After they friendship bracelet is being tied to you, it is considered you have agreed to purchase it. Pay some Euro, or risk being involved in a fight.

Tips: Just stuck your hands in your pocket and try to avoid these single guy wandering around in the area. Head straight to your destination instead. 

b) The petition charity scam at Tuileries Garden

How to Avoid the Common Scams in Paris
Tuileries Garden

As we walked around Tuileries Garden, the public garden near to Louvre, we were approached by some non-French looking social activists asking us to put our initial on a piece of petition as a support to some charity organisation.

We just walked away by ignoring the request and the couple moved to the next target. The senior couple was helpful and sign on it, and immediately they were demanded to hand in some donation. Which hypocrites in the world that make you have to donate money as a course on supporting a charity? Yes, scammers did.

The senior couple rejected the demand and threw the pen he was holding to the road and walked away, then we saw the so called "charity" personnel were cursing at them.

Tips: Just ignore them, firmly say no and walk away. There are plenty of charity you can support elsewhere.

c) The cup and ball games scam

We did not come across this scam but heard from our friend who has been to Paris. It happens frequently along Seine River bridge or area surrounding Eiffel Tower.

As you walk around this popular tourist attractions, you will come across a group of people playing the cup and ball games. The game setting is pretty simple - the host will cover a ball with one of the 3 cups, then move the cups quickly. Then the player put a bet and guess where the ball is. Surprisingly, the stupid player failed to guess the correct answer and loses his money. At the meantime, it seems so easy for you that could win the bet easily, as you know obviously where the ball is.

However, you never know this scene is a setup. All the players, host and spectators involved in the games belong to the same group of people, with the intention to fool you how easy will be the games and encourage you to play along. Intrigued by the spectators, you put a bet and started to win. Feeling great and continue playing, you will starting to lose money as the ball moves faster (these guys are experts!), and soon lose hundred and even thousand of Euro.

Tips: Why bother to engage in these games in the street? Just avoid them at all cost and do what you supposed to do.

d) Golden Ring scam

As you walk along the scenic Seine River enjoying the unparalleled view, you see someone bend over to the ground and picks up a gold ring. He then approaches you, seemingly harmless and asking whether this ring belongs to you. Being an honest people with integrity, naturally you will say no but there comes the problem - he will offer you the ring, citing religious issue he cannot keep it and ask for your help to keep it. If you agreed to it, he will again seemingly harmless pass the ring to you, but will ask for a small compensation in monetary terms.

Of course, the ring is a piece of useless metal that worth nothing. 

Tips: Just firmly say "no" and walkaway, best even if you could ignore them. Another way we have heard was pretending the ring to be yours, thank them and walk away with the useless ring.

e) Pickpocket in public transport

This is not really a scam but more like a theft attempt. However it is still worthy mention as the execution and coordination of these young thieves were professional and well trained. It happened to us right before the door of the metro train closes but was a failed attempt.

As we went into the metro train and standing near to the door, a group of girl teenagers (usually 3) rushed into the train and trying to squeeze in when the train door just few seconds away from closing. One of them collided with us, and another 2 went behind us trying to squeeze with us (attempting to pickpocket) which seem rather odd as there were still plenty space in the train. Then right before the train door closes, they will escape from the current train with your items in their hands. Luckily they did not manage to pickpocket anything from us.

Why we suspect they are pickpockets? Simply because when the train arrives, they did not rush in but was talking in group of 3, including an adult male who appeared to be coordinating the entire operation. Then they flee from the train right before the door closes so you would not manage to chase after them.

Tips: Always exercise vigilant when entering metro or any public transport in Paris. Watch out of a group of young teenagers (usually girls). Avoid standing near to the door as well. Rumours said they are being given a target of an amount of money to pickpocket on daily basis, otherwise risking being beaten by the coordinator.

f) Metro ticket helpers scam 

Being the first timer to purchase metro tickets using automated machine may appear to be a daunting or confusing experiences. You confuse where to click, which type of ticket to purchase, or even the inability to use your credit card baffled you. Then out of a sudden, a friendly guy or even an officer approaches you and help you to do the purchase, handed you a legit ticket and you pay him the money. Everything sounds perfect.

Then you take the metro to your desired destination with the metro tickets purchased by the stranger. Paris metro operates based on trust but occasionally there are officers presence to check your tickets during exit. 

Upon exit, the officers requested to check your tickets. You feel alright as you are a responsible tourist and purchased the tickets. However, upon inspection, you are found violating the rules, as the tickets purchased were children tickets and not adult tickets instead, or the tickets were unusable. Then you receive a fine for using the wrong tickets. Now you realise you have been cheated, and the officer that offered to help you were an impersonator instead. 

Tips: Whenever you needed a help to purchase a metro ticket, always ask from the official service crew at the counter.


Nevertheless, if you happen to get scammed, do not keep blaming yourself. We all make mistakes or blunders, and allowing others to leverage on the opportunity and take advantage on us. If you keep blaming yourself, you will be ruining your trip, your partner's emotion, and get depressed for the entire trip and not enjoying the limited time you have there.

It is tough to forgive yourself or the scammers, but it is a skill that you ought to learn. Personally, i lost over 200 in my Central Europe trip. Of course I feel despaired but I try to get over it. You can earn those money back later in your life.

Appreciate what you have in that moment.

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