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Last updated on 13th of February 2023 Lena
If you are traveling to Paris soon, read this post and know how to avoid the most common scams in Paris! Know better! Know how not to get scammed as a tourist.
Whenever you are traveling to a metropole, you can be sure that scammers and thieves are already there waiting for you. Paris is no different, even though it’s generally a pretty safe city. Read on for some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of scammers and swindlers in Paris.
Also read: 15 mistakes you should not make when visiting Paris
CHECKLIST for your Paris Trip
✔ Hotel booked?
Paris Survival Tips
- Don’t forget your Travel Adapter
- Book your airport transfer
- Know about the common scams
- Download the free survival guide
- Explore the Covered Arcades
- Discover the quaint Bookstores
- Find Paris Hidden Cocktail Bars
- Take an easy day trip by train
Where do you find the most scammers in Paris?
Most scams in Paris are happening in the touristic hotspots: The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Montmartre, Disneyland, the Champs Elysées. However, scam artists are operating as well on markets, in bars, and of course in public transportation.
For more info on where to watch out for which scam, check the 10 most common Paris scams below.
How can I avoid falling for Paris Scams?
It depends of course on the kind of scam but as a general guideline, try to follow those tips:
- don’t get distracted in crowded places Typical situations are when exiting the Metro or searching a street or a building. Know where you need to go beforehand, check your itineraries, and if you are unsure, find a more quiet place to check your map than the Metro platform
- keep your bags closed I know that sounds like Captain Obvious, but you would never believe the number of people I see every day in Paris that are leaving their bags open. (Happened to me once – and got my wallet stolen)
- Ignore everyone that approaches you randomly Because this is just never happening without a malicious reason. Very often this person’s sole job is to distract you, while their accomplice is knicking your stuff.
- Don’t leave your bag or phone on your table or seat next to you Especially (but not only!) when eating/drinking outside. (when I am with a backpack or a should bag, I usually put it on the ground or seat but loop the shoulder strap around a leg of the chair or my arm)
- Don’t accept anything from strangers – no rose, no ring, no ticket
The most typical Paris tourist scams and how to avoid them
Scammers are annoying and a stolen phone can easily ruin your trip. Yet alone a stolen wallet with your papers in it! Your best tactic to avoid becoming a victim of a con artist is to know about their tricks, to be informed, and know better before (!).
Here are the most frequent scams and swindles you should be aware of when traveling to Paris:
#1 Pickpockets, the classic
A metropole classic and of course no stranger to Paris. There are plenty of pickpockets in Paris and tons of things are stolen every day, but do not get paranoid and believe that everyone wants to steal from you.
Pickpockets are usually in crowded areas and in places where people are distracted: public transportation, tourist attractions, bars, markets, theme parks… you name it.
The best advice to avoid being a victim of theft is: be aware of your things and your surroundings, don’t get distracted, keep your valuables close. Pickpockets are not violent, they are discrete scammers that are searching for the occasion, rather than creating one.
Where to find this scam? Sadly everywhere, but mainly around tourist attractions, markets, transports, crowded areas
How to avoid it? Take care of your belongings, be aware of your surroundings, and have your items safely stored. Don’t store money or other valuables in easily accessible pockets.
If you feel more secure with an extra layer of protection, there are plenty of anti-theft items out there:
#2 Cell Phone Theft in Metros
This is a very popular scam in Metros that happens every day plenty of times – to locals and tourists alike. While riding the Metro, most passengers are checking their phones; reading the news, browsing Facebook, or playing games.
Being off guard and distracted, you won’t notice the person casually walking through the carrier and – just when the alarm announcing that the doors will close and the Metro is about to leave the station- grabbing your phone and running off with it. Doors are closed, your phone is gone and you’ve got no chance to catch the thief.
The best way to avoid it is obviously not taking out your phone in the Metro. Especially if you are standing or sitting close to the doors. However, personally, I often do use my phone when riding the Metro and I got a little cell phone grip attached to the back of my phone to have a better hold and grip on it.
Where to find this scam? In public transportation
How to avoid it? Don’t use your phone, don’t get distracted
#3 Fake Taxis at Airports and Train stations
When you arrive in Paris by plane, you surely will be approached by someone in the arrivals area asking if you need a taxi or a private driver. Chances are that you do indeed and how lucky to have found one right away!
Read more: 5 ways to get from Charles de Gaulle airport to Paris – THE complete guide!
Even if those guys will most likely deliver the service they offer, they are NOT legitimate taxi drivers. In France, it is prohibited for drivers to approach customers and every time someone asks if you need a ride, they are acting against the law. And most important; they can charge you whatever they want. Just walk by, ignore them, or politely decline the offer.
Official taxis are accepting guests at the indicated taxi stands (just follow the signs), have a light on the roof of their vehicle, and will charge you a fixed price into town. (between 53€ and 58€ from CDG, and 32€ and 37€ from Orly)
If you don’t want to ride public transportation upon arrival or are unsure about finding a taxi, you can also hire a private driver prior to your trip. Depending on your party size, it can be even cheaper than a regular taxi. Click here to see all offers and availabilities.
Where to find this scam? On airports and stations, but it can happen in other places, too
How to avoid it? Don’t accept a ride from someone who is approaching you
Good to Know! Most scammers in Paris are part of a bigger organization and rarely act alone.
- If someone asks you to sign a petition and you give them some coins, their accomplice might observe the scene and steal your wallet later, now knowing where you store it.
- If you hear an announcement in the Metro that pickpockets are around, don’t check if your wallet is still in its place – someone might observe the platform for exactly this gesture to find out where you’re keeping it.
#4 The Fake Petition Scam
submitted by Jenny Fielding from Cruise Mummy
The fake petition scam is a simple one. A person with a clipboard and a ballpoint pen asks you to sign a petition. If you sign, they’ll then ask you for money to help a charity, which they’ll pocket for themselves. These people can be very persistent, often following you until you give them some small change to make them go away.
But alas, that’s not all. The petition-bearer is usually part of a gang of pickpockets who will swipe your wallet or mobile phone whilst you’re distracted by the petition. Even if they don’t do it right away, they’ll know which pocket you keep your wallet in, making it easier for them to target you later on.
I took a walking tour of Paris and our tour guide drew our attention to these scammers outside the Louvre but said that you can spot them all over the capital.
Where to find this scam? Around all popular tourist places, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, around the Louvre, Montmartre…
How to avoid it? The easiest way to avoid these scammers is just to say no, repeating as many times as is necessary or ignoring them altogether
#5 The Paris Ring Scam
submitted by the Wandering Wheatleys
My husband and I were walking along the river near the Notre Dame on a cold December afternoon in Paris when a man sped past and then bent down to pick something up right in front of us. He stopped us with a smile so we could admire what he’d just found lying on the sidewalk – a gold ring with an inscription of 18k! We smiled and told him congratulations on the lucky find (but sad for whoever lost it) and started off again on our stroll.
He stopped us once again to show us his attempt to put the ring on his finger – sadly it didn’t fit him. He had me stick out my hand so he could try it on and what do you know, fit like a glove! Finally, he gestured to me that I could have it and I thought “wow, what a nice guy!”, still completely oblivious to the scam.
We started to walk away again, me with my newfound treasure when he stopped us once again, this time to request a small payment for his generosity – “just €10 to buy a sandwich”. My husband and I gave each other a knowing glance – we’d just been had. We tried to return the ring but he insisted that we keep it. We ended up giving him €2 and keeping the ring as a memento of our first (and hopefully only) Parisian scam.
Where to find this scam? Around all popular tourist places, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, around the Louvre, Montmartre…
How to avoid it? Simply by knowing about this scam and not accepting the ring.
#6 Friendship Bracelets
submitted by BeeLoved City
Visiting Montmartre is a must-do in Paris. If you are interested in learning more about Paris, this will be a great place to do so as it’s home to some of the most famous french landmarks. As you head up there, make sure you stay alert as it’s known to be a place with a lot of scammers.
One of the most common scams takes place at the Sacre Coeur. Once you get to the bottom of the stairs, you will notice that a lot of people are wandering around with bracelets. They will approach you to try to sell one of these bracelets. So far there is nothing wrong with this however it’s the way it’s done that is questionable.
They can be very persistent and before you know it they tied the bracelet around your wrist. The only way to remove it now is by cutting it which means you’re left with no other choice than to pay for it.
Where to find this scam? In Montmartre, mostly on the bottom of the stairs at Sacre Coeur.
How to avoid it? The best way to avoid it is to keep an eye on people with bracelets in their hands. If they try to come closer, make sure to walk away and not give your hand or arm. As much you are going to try, they sometimes manage to put it on without you really noticing. If that happens to you, the best way out of this situation is to meet them halfway. Give them 1 euro (no more than that) and call it a day. By doing that, you will manage to get them to leave you in peace whilst not losing too much money. As much as you can argue the fact that you shouldn’t be paying at all, it will probably not be worth the argument, annoyment, and waste of time.
#7 The Poor Fellow Drops some Items Trap
This nasty scam happened to a friend of mine while riding the train from the airport into town. While sitting there minding her own business, a guy walked by and dropped – seemingly by accident – a box with small items. Just some knick-knack that spread all over the carrier floor. My friend went of course ahead and helped him pick up his belongings. While she was doing so, an accomplice stole her purse that she left unattended for a minute while helping.
Where to find this scam? On trains but it could be anywhere else as well
How to avoid it? Don’t ever leave your belongings unattended.
#8 The Con(e) Game
Manpreet K from Your Vegan Adventure
As you are walking around some of Paris’ famous sites, you will see a lot of street acts and street performances going on. Some are genuine people trying to earn an honest wage, but be very careful as there is one particular trick that is a well-known scam.
You will see one man, with three cups and a ball underneath. We saw this a number of times right underneath the Eiffel Tower, a place crowded with tourists and the scammers know that tourists have money to splash. The trick seems easy, as the person who keeps playing and gambling losses their money every time to the host. What people don’t realize is that their 6-8 onlookers creating a scene are all part of the gang.
The only way to avoid it is to just walk on and not even make eye contact with anyone around the game. They will see your interest in what is going on and try to lure you in. We tried to stop somebody from gambling their money as we quickly picked up what was happening, but 2 members of the gang shoved us away and followed us out of the park to ensure we didn’t cause them grief.
Where to find this scam? Close to the Eiffel Tower and the Trocadero
How to avoid it? Don’t play because you will certainly be losing.
#9 Cheap Entrance Ticket Scam
You find this swindle in Paris often close to exhibitions, fair trades, concerts, public transport stations, and events.
It’s pretty simple: someone approaches you and offers an event ticket for a cheaper price. Often these tickets are bought as group tickets that are cheaper in a bundle, sometimes the tickets are just counterfeit or in regards to Metro Tickets – already used. In any case – don’t buy anything if not from a valid source.
Where to find this scam? Potentially everywhere
How to avoid it? Don’t buy anything from strangers that are approaching you offering a good deal.
#10 The Menu without Prices Trap
Deb from The Visa Project
While Paris is usually safe, it has its share of con artists. When doing TESOL training in Spain, I visited Paris more than a few times and came across gullible tourists being approached by scammers. While I was able to escape the gold ring or rose scams, I and a friend got ripped off at a gelato shop near Montmartre artist square.
We had been walking around all day and made a snap decision of buying a couple of cones and two cokes. And made the mistake of not even checking the price. While usually, gelatos cost five dollars or so, the cashier quoted us fifty euros. We tried to reason with him in broken french, but he simply shrugged and we had to pay. So, a menu without a price is a strict no. Variations to this scam are giving you a special “tourist menu” with much higher prices, giving you change in coins that are not euros, or charging you for items you didn’t order.
Where to find this scam? in tourist areas
How to avoid it? Always check the menu before ordering – they are usually displayed outside of the bar/restaurant
You’ll probably be also interested in knowing more about 80 hidden gems in Paris and our seasonal Paris guides!
PS: Check out these posts, they will help you plan your trip to Paris
- Paris hidden gems: 80+ well kept secrets you shouldn’t miss
- What NOT to do in Paris -23 (costly) Paris Mistakes you need to avoid!
- 14 Hotels with stunning Eiffel Tower views- for (almost) every budget!
- Your Perfect 2 Days in Paris! Itinerary & Insider Tips
- These are the best 5 Cabarets in Paris
- 5 ways to get from Charles de Gaulle airport to Paris – THE complete guide!
- Scams in Paris! How to avoid the most common cons
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