Like any city you will inevitably find there are always the cheats and scammers. In many ways, it pays to stay well out of their way. Recently in Paris we couldn’t resist having a bit of fun with them, and in some cases spoil their fun by warning other tourists of their errant ways.
This may have made us unpopular with the scammers of Paris but hopefully what we picked up will help others identify more quickly when a tourist scam is coming their way.
One of the famous tourist scams in Paris is the “lost ring” scam. A stranger or a so called ‘honest man’ bends over within your view to pick up a “lost” ring. When he ‘notices’ you have seen him find the ring, he comes over and offers it to you, the tourist.
The honest man does not accept the valuable gold ring because it is not his, not the right size, against his religion, blah, blah. It’s your lucky day, he found it, but hey, here it’s yours, good luck, and welcome to Paris!
And away he walks… but then, after a few steps, he hesitates and comes back. Well, after all, the ring must be worth something, and he gave it to you, so surely you could return the favour and give him some cash? Negotiations follow and the tourist gives money to the so called honest man. Of course it turns out that the ring is brass and almost worthless.
The ‘honest man’ who has now rightfully earned the title of ‘scammer supreme’ walks away with more than he paid for the ring and the mark walks away with a worthless ring, a few Euros poorer.
When we accept one of the rings and then pretend to throw it in the fountain the woman gets really mad with us and her crew quickly arrive on the scene!
Another time we warn other tourists about the trick and when the scammers realise what we are doing they scream obscenities at us.
Another scam is the ‘deaf mute association girls’ who are trying to get some petition signed. Immediately after you sign they demand money and, yes, people do give it to them. We note that as we keep trying to make them talk they eventually do and – well, game over!
The fun is getting them to talk when they are supposed to be deaf mute! But again, they do work in groups, and angry mobs of scammers can start feel slightly intimidating.
Walking down the street one notices a “game” of three discs, one with white on the bottom, being hidden and rearranged under cups. This is the shell game and this is bad news for an unsuspecting tourist trying to enjoy Parisian streetculture. Crowds stops to look at this ‘local past time’, and watch the game progress, trying to indentify which cup the white disc is under.
One person bets 50 euro and loses, then a woman bets 100 euro and wins, the next person loses. To the bystander, it appears simple to see where the white disc is going, and people are clearly winning. With two discs left in the game a player tells the tourist they have won! The tourist is shocked and when the gamer asks the tourist to see their money to join in and bet where the disc is the excited tourist hands over 50 Euro (perhaps ignoring the little voice of common sense in their head?).
All the while the gamers’ confederates tell the tourist “you’ve won, you’ve won”. The tourist is then asked to turn the disc over, which of course this time does not have a white spot- and the tourist has lost their money. Of course all the other players and the crowd are in on the whole scam and are confederates of the gamers.
This is how they steal your money.
This is clever variant on pick pocketing. Instead of fleecing you of your wallet and valuables in stealth mode, they brazenly get you to show them your money to gamble!
We watch a poor woman get done for 50 Euro. It really is an intimidation game, and people are often willing to part with cash to remove themselves from uncomfortable situations.
The main advice I would give is to keep your eyes open, and be wary of any attention you receive from people on the street.
Of course, you do not want to isolate yourselves from the surroundings and people of Paris fully, but you do not want to feel your time there has been ruined or to feel taken advantage of by Paris because you were taken in. While it can be fun to let the scammers know you know what is happening, be aware that this may make targets for their abuse.