Scams out to trick tourists take place everywhere in Paris be it at the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Élysées, Sacré Coeur, along the River Seine, Notre Dame etc. We saw two tourists fall prey to a scam recently when we were driving along the River Sine and much as we wanted to alert them, there wasn’t enough time to do so before the car had to move off. So, in the spirit of public service, I hope to do our part to raise awareness of some of these hoaxes.
1. Clipboard donations
I’ve seen adults and children carrying clipboards at major tourist destinations (Eiffel Tower, Sacré Coeur and Champs-Élysées etc) asking for donations. A colleague that’s fallen for this told me that once you agree to donate (eg. €2 or €5), they’ll tell you that there’s a minimum donation amount. So if you oblige them, you’ll end up losing the money you give them and could potentially have your wallet stolen when they see where you keep your wallet. I once witnessed an old man handing over a €20 note and instead of giving him change, the girl ran away with his money.
2. Bracelets/Friendship Bands
I’ve only ever seen this happen in Montmartre. As you head towards the Sacre Coeur, men will come up to you showing you friendship bands and they will try to tie these bands on your wrist. Say no immediately and walk away. Otherwise, once the bands are on your wrists, they’ll ask you to pay €5 – €10 for each band.
3. Guess where the ball is
What catches your attention is a group of people huddled over a game. You get drawn to the crowd and see a guy betting €50 while guessing which of the 3 matchstick boxes/cups actually contains a ball. The guy easily wins the €50. If you stick around and show some interest in betting, those around you would egg you on telling you how easy it is to win. Once you decide to play, that’s where the scam unfolds. The split second that you look away to get your money, the ball is moved away from where you thought it was and there goes your money. The guy who “won” before you and those who urged you to bet are actually from the same gang. They keep pretending to “win” until some innocent chap takes the bait.
4. The gold ring
Another person who fell for this told me that someone would come up to you to ask if you’ve dropped a gold ring. He would then show you a ring and try to make conversation while attempting to convince you that the ring belongs to you. When you refuse, he will then ask for spare change either for the ring (which could have a fake 18k insignia on it) or to pay for his next meal.
5. Someone drops something in front of you
This usually happens on trains or when you’re seated down in a café. Someone walks by and drops something beside you (coins, papers etc). If you bend over to help this person pick up his belongings without watching your own stuff, chances are that your valuable possessions (handphone/handbag/laptop) would be swiped away while you’re bent over. It doesn’t pay to be kind? Well, yes, be kind but be alert as well.