While traveling Europe we came across many tricks and thieves but nowhere was as bad or as abundant as the Paris scams. I don’t know why but I can only assume it’s because of the massive amount of tourists that arrive each day. All of them distracted and awestruck by the beautiful sights and sounds of the French capital.
My hyper-alert mode was activated because of what I knew to watch out for before we arrived but that wasn’t enough.
Fake Metro Workers
This one was the first of many scams we experienced in Paris within 15 minutes of being in the city. We arrived by bus at Porte-Maillot station and like most of the other passengers, we start walking towards the nearest metro. As we get closer, we see more than one Metro sign and a young, pretty 20-something-year-old female wearing a name tag. She asks (in good English) if we’re looking for the Metro and then points us towards a different station entrance. We follow her directions, walk a little further and another 20-something-year-old male with a name tag points us to the Metro.
Once we get to the ticket machine, that same man is right behind us and wants to help us buy our tickets. I am instantly suspicious when he quickly navigates through a bunch of screens in French on the monitor and suddenly the ticket price is $20 for a single trip. Then he says it would be better if we just bought one of his ‘special’ day pass booklets for a better deal. At this point we’re tired, grumpy and confused by what this alleged metro worker is telling us. Luckily an old man starts yelling at him in French for trying to scam us and he takes off.
Donation for the Deaf
A female will come up, hand you a clipboard and will give you the impression that she is deaf. Initially, it looks like she just wants a signature for her petition but as you sign your name on the bottom, you look to the right and it says Donation. Surprised by this, and by the others who have donated what appears to be €50, you feel guilty and obligated to hand over your hard-earned cash.
What I didn’t know is that it was all a lie. After I handed over a euro, I walked inside the church and saw a poster warning tourists not to give money to the charity outside. It explained that it was just another one of the Paris scams.
Usually during busy commute times, a pair will be working in unison near the exit doors of a metro train. Right before the train stops at its next destination, one person will drop something to cause a distraction. Then, as the doors are opening, you may be curious about what was dropped and might even bend down to pick it up. Meanwhile, the doors are about to close just as your bag is being snatched. The doors close before you have time to realize what happened and the train is now leaving the station where you can say goodbye to your bag.
Distract and Pick-Pocket
Pick-pocketing has been around for a long time but nevertheless it should be a topic of discussion. There are many ways to get your valuables away from you without you knowing. The most commonly seen is a group of younger males working as a team. It could be the man trying to sell you something when actually his friend is behind you with his hand in your purse. Or it could be the one standing close to you on the packed Metro. You can usually spot these questionable characters by their darting eyes and less professional look.
This should go without saying but after reading this some of you might think that you can still win some cash playing from the street casinos you might find throughout Paris. Any game where the dealer tries to quickly move the cards around or move the ball around in the cups is a scam. Even when you see people betting money and winning – it’s still a scam.
Usually friends and family of the dealer will stand around the game pretending to lose money on what appears to be a sure win. Watching them lose at such an easy game might entice you to join in and give up some cash. I walked by one afternoon and saw five shady characters all playing the game and came back two hours later and to see those same shady five characters still there pretending to play.
Now I don’t want to scare you with these Paris scams. The city is wonderful, filled with grand works of art and stunning sculptures but there is a dark side that you should be aware of. Stay alert, suspicious and be aware of your surroundings and you will be A okay.