8 Common Scams In Paris and Useful Tips To Help You Stay Safe


Amira Rahmat •  Jul 24, 2019

For some, Paris is more than just a bucket list destination. Just hearing someone talk about “Paris” can leave them starry-eyed, conjuring up visions of walking towards the Eiffel, or enjoying delicious French cuisine in romantic restaurants. As amazing as travelling in Paris might be, you may run into some negative experiences. Pickpockets, scams and misplacing your possessions can dampen your adventure, but we’re here to help cover some basics of a travelling safely here in Paris ☺️ To ensure your safety, be aware of these common Paris scams and what should be wary of while you’re on vacation!

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If you are going to visit the Eiffel Tower, here are 3 important tips every traveller must know, from Suzana’s experience!

1. Please Sign this Petition for a Cause!

Credit: Bruce Henry on Facebook

This petition scam is well documented in Paris, and I myself have encountered them. You may encounter groups of children with petition clipboards coming up to you to sign a petition. It will usually be for some noble cause such as women’s education or support for the mute and deaf, which are actually fake. The petition is in French (hence, you may not understand what you are signing for) and once you sign it, they will aggressively demand a “donation” for their cause. These people are around all the big monuments such as the Louvre, Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame. Do watch out for this one around tourist landmarks and don’t sign anything while you’re far from home, to be on the safe side!

How to avoid it: An easy one to avoid. They’re easy to spot because they walk around with clipboards and approach people saying “Do you speak English?” Just politely tell them no and walk away. The fact is some charity organizations do canvas around in Paris, but you will be able to tell if it’s a scam or not from the clothes they are wearing. Usually, if it’s the real deal, they will bear the name and logo of their organization (e.g. Red Cross, WWF).

P.S. Travelling around Europe? Conquer London, Paris and Amsterdam with our 9D8N Muslim-friendly itinerary!

2. The Friendship Bracelets of Sacre Coeur

Credit: Kah Fai on Facebook

This one is another scam that I’ve encountered myself too when I was in Paris. As tourists flock to the steps of the Sacre Coeur Cathedral in Montmarte, they will come across many “bracelet weavers”. It’s near to impossible to avoid them as you walk up the steps to the church. What they will try to do is come up to you acting all friendly and then offer a “friendship bracelet” on your wrist as a welcome to Paris, and afterwards demand that you pay for it. This can all happen very fast and scary as well because they are often intimidating-looking and very pushy.

I’ve seen the groups of (large) men and sometimes women loitering around the steps as I watched the sunset at the top of the hill, and there are tourists who do fall into this trap.

How to avoid it: If you know they are coming, just say “No thanks” firmly and keep walking away. And maybe keep your hands in your pockets too and you’ll be fine!

P.S. Check out these 10 Muslim-friendly eateries for your trip to Paris!

3. The Fake Policemen

This didn’t happen to me, but my dad encountered it on the streets. A man approached him asking for directions, and apparently, he was also going the same way so he offered to walk with him. Then, an undercover police officer stopped them to ask for passports and then claimed he needed to check their wallets for counterfeit money. The “policeman” also flashed his police card and sounded really convincing so my dad did what he was told after the man beside him did the same. After looking through the wallet (no US dollars nor Euros, only some small Singapore change and a Singapore bank card), the policeman gave him back his wallet and told the man to walk away. He also told my dad to be careful around that area because there are drug users who ask unsuspecting tourists for help. Needless to say, my dad then Googled about it, and it is actually a common scam.

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How to avoid it: Be careful when taking out your passport and wallet in public. If anyone claims to be police asking for your wallet, ask for their police identification again, or ask to be brought to a police station before that. Also, such scams don’t happen just in Paris, but in various places around Europe.

P.S. If you are solo travelling around Europe, here’s a Muslimah’s guide to solo travelling to help you have a safe and memorable adventure!

4. The Gold Ring

“Excuse me, is this your gold ring?”

What an opening line! Known as a common scam in Paris, someone will approach you with a ring that they found, and asked if you had dropped it. They will expect you to say no, and then the person will try to foist the ring on you, and attempt to sell it to you at a “good price”, claiming how valuable it is. Be on a lookout while all these are happening, as they may also use this as a distraction to pickpocket you.

How to avoid it: Of course, the rings are not real gold. Be on the guard for the scam, which often happens in Jardin des Tuileries, Seine River and Champs de Mars near the Eiffel. If you encounter them, just walk away and do remember to double-check your valuables!

5. Street Games

Credit: Paul M Murray on Facebook

The street games scam is one of the oldest scam in the book. They are all over Paris which obviously works because they are still doing it! All these games look deceptively easy, but they are all rigged such that the player will have zero chance of winning. These people work in teams and those lucky bystanders who win are just part of the scam as well! You will be able to spot them easily with groups of people gathering around small makeshift tables, and the bystanders who just keep winning.

Credit: Evan Stanbury on Facebook

The games can take a few different forms and are known as the “shell” game, or the “card” game.

How to avoid it: Do not get tricked into playing, and at the same time bear in mind that these street games can be a distraction for pickpockets to look for unsuspecting tourists.

6. Roses for your Partner

As you walk down hand in hand with your loved one along the romantic streets of Paris, suddenly a man comes up to you and try to give you a rose as a ‘gift’ as if he is giving them for free. Once you’re holding the gift, surprise surprise! They will demand payment and if you walk away, they will follow you. It is relatively a small sum between 3 to 10 euros, depending on how much the seller thinks he can get out of you. You may even see these flower “salesman” come into restaurants around Paris.

How to avoid it: This one is really easy to spot, especially along Seine River (I've seen them a lot here!), Eiffel Tower and other touristy spots in town. When you see one of these men coming towards you with their arm outstretched with a rose, try to change your path or avoid them. Other than roses, these stragglers may also offer a “free” trinket or a sprig of rosemary.

7. Metro Scams

The public transport in Paris is not only busy with tourists and Parisians but it's also the target for pickpockets. There are many different ways pickpockets try to get away with your possessions, and they seem to be very skilled at it. The most popular way is when a swarm of people try to get on or off the metro, and while they are pushing you, they may try to steal your belongings. Another frequently used technique is also a distraction tactic. Someone will accidentally spill something on your shirt, then people around you will energetically try to help clean you. While you are distracted, another person will try to get away with your belongings.

Credits: @the_fervent_traveller on Instagram

How to avoid it: The rule of thumb is to always take precautions and try to keep only what is essential. Carry only purses with zips, and put your bags in front. If something like that happens to you, check your belongings after the commotion!

8. Taxi Scams

Credit: jean pierre galot on Flickr

Manipulating metre fares, unlicensed drivers, sneakily taking a long route – these are some ploys that drivers pull on innocent tourists! At Gare du Nord (the main rail hub in Paris) as with other main stations, there is an official taxi queue. The rogue drivers on the other hand will congregate in front of the main entry to look for the unsuspecting tourists. If the “taxi” looks different from the rest, find another one. Otherwise, they may overcharge you, drive you around in circles, or refuse to give you change.

My family and I encountered a taxi scam in Europe once, when we had luggage with us. It was winter (imagine 0 degrees weather!) trying to find our accommodation with luggage and asking shop owners about the address. In the end, we decided to take a taxi as we had difficulty finding the location. We took a taxi from the main railway station and the driver told us he can take us to the location. After a few circles, the driver dropped us just 200 metres away from the railway station charging us an unreasonable amount, and the driver claimed the roads there are closed on weekends and that he wasn’t able to drive us in. I would say it’s important to print out the maps to your hotel/Airbnb or have it in your phone. It wasn’t exactly fun being lost trying to find your accommodation while it was freezing cold (but an unforgettable experience)!

How to avoid it: Legitimate taxis are very distinctive and you can spot their “taxi” sign on the roof of the car. The three primary companies here in Paris are G7, Alpha Taxi and Taxi Bleu. All three even have smartphone apps! Alternatively, book a trip from a ride-service app such as Uber, which is now available in Paris.

Tips to help you if you get scammed

We hope you never have to use this part of the article! If something does happen, here’s what you can do.

Remove yourself from the situation: Your safety and well-being above all are most important. If the situation has taken a bad turn, try to find the best way to leave, and remember as many details as possible.

Cancel your cards: If you lost some valuables, you should block your debit and credit cards, as well as your phone provider.

Contact your embassy: If your passport gets stolen, immediately contact your embassy and they should be able to help you out.

File a police report: It is also a good idea to have official documentation, which is relatively a straightforward process. Having one can go a long way in helping to resolve the situation. Similarly, it also allows you to contact your travel insurance. Do bear in mind that the local police may probably not put in much effort for petty crimes.

And don’t forget to breathe, tawakkal and make lots of dua!  For a boost of divine intervention, do check out our list of 8 Powerful Duas Every Muslim Traveller Needs To Know to stay extra safe.

Once you are aware of these type of scams and how to protect yourself, you can easily avoid them! Practice some common sense and enjoy your trip to Paris ? Bon voyage!