Paris is a fantastic city to visit, especially for first time visitors to Europe, however you’ll need to be aware of your surroundings as there are quite a few scammers in Paris. My husband has personally been scammed in Paris and I’ve been on my best behavior while living in Paris to avoid pickpockets in Paris. Hopefully, these tips for avoiding pickpockets in Paris and knowledge about popular scams in Paris will help you avoid being scammed in Paris. This post includes tips from other Parisian residents as well as travelers on scams in Paris that they’ve encountered.
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Tips covered in this post about pickpockets and scams in Paris:
- Tips on how to avoid pickpockets in Paris
- Paris Scams to Avoid
- Bar scam where a girl asks for a drink and then you get bullied into paying a lot
- Signing a petition
- Phony Police
- Covering up ATM screens with cardboard
- Friendship bracelet
- Hotel Scams
- Thimble scammers in Montmartre and Eiffel Tower
- Gold ring scam
- Avoiding taxi scams in Paris
- Dropping a baby into arms scam
- Restaurant with no prices scam
- Metro scams
How to avoid pickpockets in Paris
Unfortunately pickpocketing in Paris is a significant issue for both tourists and residents alike. Tourists are more likely to be targeted, however major tourist attractions as well as the Metro are where you’ll commonly find pickpockets in Paris. Here’s some tips about how to avoid pickpockets in Paris based on my time living in Paris.
Some simple steps to avoid pickpockets in Paris:
Pickpockets typically work in teams. Although we imagine that it’s just one thief, there’s usually at least two people working together. The first person is the one who “bumps” into you and/or figures out where your valuables are located (often when you check for your wallet after the initial bump). The actual pickpocket comes up to you to do the work and let’s put it this way: you’ll usually know. If you’re bumped, be careful as that’s usually the first step rather than the main step. Get out of there ASAP if you had a bad feeling about a situation.
Ensure that your bag zips securely and that you keep the zipper in the front while you’re walking/standing (especially on the Paris Metro). This is a super basic tip, however I was almost pickpocketed as a thief thought that the zipper to my purse (a large tote bag) was in the back… I felt the thief pulling on my bag and I moved away.
Now, I prefer using a cross-body bag as if it makes it easier to keep eyes on my bag as well as my hand over the zipper. I really like to have a bag with multiple zipped pockets, so even if a thief manages to get in, they won’t have time to get through all my pockets. I also recommend a bag with thicker straps, which makes it harder for someone to slash the straps. I’ve been a fan of Kipling crossbody bags for a while as they’re well-made, sturdy, and discrete. As a side note, I really like to go to the store to try on different crossbody bags to see how comfortable they are and to see if my DSLR camera will fit inside of them without anyone being able to tell that I’m carrying a nice camera.
Looking like a tourist…means that you’ll be targeted as a tourist. This is so basic, but if you’re carrying around a giant selfie stick and/or wearing a fanny pack, it’s pretty clear that you’re a tourist. Even the travel safari vests are a dead giveaway (sorry). I know that some people swear by the fanny pack, however a waist pack that can’t be seen is far better idea than one than can be seen. I personally don’t wear pickpocketing-proof waist packs, but I know that some people like them. I always put my camera away as soon as I’m done with a photo. Keeping it out makes you a target.
Avoid using your phone on the metro and in major touristic locations. Most people, myself included, are guilty of using a cell phone on the Metro or in a touristic location, however if you’re looking at your phone, you’re not paying attention to what’s going on around you. It also makes it easier for someone to grab your phone out of your hand or pickpocket you.
Don’t leave your valuables (e.g. phone/camera) on the table. This is so basic, but even I’m guilty of setting my phone/camera on the table. There is a scam that targets people who leave their phone out in the table… so if you just got the newest iPhone, be aware that touristic terrace restaurants in Paris are often targeted by scammers who will distract you while stealing your phone off the table.
Don’t hang your bag off your chair and/or place it on the floor without having it attached to you in some way. I’ve heard of a scam in Paris where thieves will reach down to pick bags off the floor, so I recommend keeping your bag attached to you in some way with eyes on it. I often keep my bag in my lap with one hand over it while I’m eating and/or hold it between my legs on public transit if I’m sitting down. It ensures that even if I’m not wearing it, I’m aware if someone tries to move it.
Don’t leave your valuables out while taking photos. I’ve seen this happen so many times when people are trying to nail the perfect photo near the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower. You put your bag down next to your friend/loved one who is taking the photo… and they’re busy taking the photo. Be aware of where your stuff is.
Walk with purpose and avoid eye contact. Maybe it’s growing up in New York, but I believe having your “big city” walk on in Paris or as some call it RBS (Resting Bitch Face) can make it clear that you’re too busy to stop for a scammer. Similarly, I always walk around people who are clearly coming up to others to talk. I know it seems callous, but you don’t need to talk to everyone who comes up to you. You don’t need to be polite to scammers.
Most people who I know were scammed (or had their credit card stolen) had it happen at a restaurant where their card was taken to the back. Although it’s more common in Paris to sit and wait for your card to be returned with the bill, I like to go with the waiter to the front to present my credit card to ensure that the waiter can’t copy down my card information or take photos of my card. If you’re worried about having your credit card details stolen, use cash.
Don’t carry too much cash on you. I try to limit my cash to what I’ll be using for the next 1-3 days to ensure that I’m carrying enough cash for daily use, but not any extra. Thieves are often after cash and it’s a bad idea to carry more than you’re willing to lose. There are plenty of ATMs in Paris and there’s no need to carry around three hundred euros (or more). Most shops will accept credit cards.
Separate out your daily use wallet from your main wallet. Realistically, you’ll be using 1-2 cards for most of your trip as well as some cash. I like to limit my cash to 100 euros with going to the ATM every couple days. The rest of my wallet will be hidden elsewhere or left at home, so that if my “travel” wallet is stolen, I don’t need to cancel all my cards or replace my IDs. I recommend keeping your passport separate from your “travel wallet.” Although the passport wallet is popular, it makes it easier to lose your passport if someone pickpockets you. I like to hide my passport elsewhere, just in case.
Most pickpockets are not after your cards or passport. They mostly want cash, so if you’ve been targeted and had your wallet stolen, check the nearby trash bins for your wallet. Cash is non-traceable while cards are traceable and can be cancelled. Realistically, a pickpocket will dump your wallet after extracting the cash although it’s good to know what’s in your wallet, so you can notify your banks accordingly.
If something happens, file a police report. A police report allows you to contest charges on your credit card that may be the result of a scam. Similarly, it allows you to contact your travel insurance (a good idea) to get back any money that may have lost as a result of a scam. It’s unlikely you’ll get your phone back (don’t go after the thief yourself), but you can get money to buy a new phone from your insurance.
Paris Scams to Avoid
I think half the battle of avoiding scammers is to know the popular scams in Paris before you arrive, so when a pretty girl comes up to you to flirt, you know that there’s a chance that it might be a scam. (Hopefully for you, that’s not the case!) I hope these bad experiences/scams that happened to me, friends, and fellow travel bloggers, help you make the best of your trip to Paris.
Bar scam where a girl asks for a drink and then you get bullied into paying a lot
This unfortunate scam happened to my husband on his first solo trip to Paris and it ruined his trip. While walking around Montmartre, a girl came up to him and mentioned to him that one of the nearby cafes had a drink special that included a free drink. Down for a free drink, Jacob headed with the girl to a cafe. Almost immediately, he had a bad feeling about the place, but he figured that he’d get his free drink before leaving. As soon as he sat at the bar enjoying his free drink, a girl sat next to him asking if she should order champagne. He told her to do whatever she wanted (assuming that she’d just make her own decisions) and she ordered a champagne. After ordering the one free drink, he decided to leave, only to be blocked by an intimidating looking man who told me that he owed a thousand euros for the girl’s drink.
A broke backpacker at the time, Jacob did not have a thousand euros and threatened to call the police. After some negotiations and intimidation, Jacob offered to pay three hundred euros. He withdrew the money, the rest of his funds for his trip. After, he got out of the cafe and went straight to the police to file a report. (The Paris police visited the establishment afterwards.) He also went to the American Embassy.
Simply, don’t follow someone who invites you into a bar and remember that restaurants/cafes must have your permission to charge you an amount. Be sure to note the address of any establishment that tries to rip you off, so you can report it to the police. In the case of this cafe scam, they tried to use the girl asking if she should order a champagne as “permission” to charge him, so always ask the prices upfront and be clear that you will only pay for your portion.
Signing a petition
This is a popular scam. Someone comes up to you asking for you to sign a petition about a cause that is usually very vague. While you’re signing the petition, someone else is rifling through your bag and/or picking up items from the table (including phones). In some cases, they’ll ask for money, which will not be going to the cause most likely. Wait until you’re home to donate to charity. So when you see someone coming up to you with a clipboard, be on guard. There’s a variation with this with a person coming up to you with a cardboard sign and/or laying the sign on the table while picking up your iPhone X with it. Just walk walking around people with clipboards and/or start saying NON as loudly as possible.
An undercover policeman will stop you to ask for your passport and/or check your wallet for counterfeit bills. Ask for identification of the person asking you and/or to be brought into a police station prior to doing so. Needless to say, be careful with taking out your passport in public. While living in Paris, I never needed to take out my passport in public for any reason besides verifying my identity for a hotel. Do not take out your passport in public just because someone asks to see it. I’ve heard of scams where people ask for your passport while pretending to be undercover cops, so watch out if someone asks for it. In France, you do not need to carry your passport around if you’re from the Schengen region.
Covering up ATM screens with cardboard
This scam in Paris is one of the nastiest ones that I’ve ever seen. While doing a free walking tour in Paris on my first visit, one of the group members decided to go to an ATM to take out cash. (The ATM was directly behind in the Louvre on a touristy street.) While he was at the ATM, someone came up and put a piece of cardboard over the screen while another person intimidated him. Luckily, my group scared them off as we shouted as them, however the scam is that they intimidate you while covering up the screen. They hit the button for one hundred euros and flee. Advice: Ensure that nobody is near you when you go to an ATM and be aware of the ATM location. (I personally try to use ATMs in residential areas to avoid this issue.)
There’s two notable scams involving hotels in Paris. The first hotel scam is someone who calls your hotel room pretending to be at the front desk who needs your credit card to double-check something. Typically the scammer is not downstairs, but elsewhere writing down your credit card details. Be sure to go downstairs to the front desk to notify them and check if everything is okay. Never give out your personal information over the phone!
Someone turns up at your room asking to “inspect” it claiming to be a hotel or the police without any notice. Needless to say, you should ask the front desk prior to letting them into your room. Once in the room, they’ll steal some stuff. There should be proper notification and you shouldn’t allow people into your hotel room without caution.
Someone comes up to you and offers you something for free. It’s usually a “friendship bracelet” that they put on your wrist without your permission. As soon as it’s on your wrist, you’re asked to pay some amount of money for this bracelet that you didn’t even want. (This is often a way to distract tourists while they’re pickpocketed.)
Thimble scammers in Montmartre and Eiffel Tower
A trip to Paris isn’t complete without a visit of the Montmartre hill with the iconic Basilica of the Sacré Cœur on top. The area is a hotspot for local and international artists as well as for scammers. All around Montmartre, groups of people gather around small makeshift tables or cardboard boxes. Many of them are waving with large amounts of money and everybody seems to be winning in the game they are playing.
A small item is placed under a cup and is shuffled around among two other empty cups. It seems so easy to guess under which cup the item is. And everyone around the table is winning money. But try to resist the urge to join in the game with your own money. All these lucky bystanders are all part of the scam. As soon as you place your bet, the game will change and the thimblerig scammer will remove the item under the cup and replace it only after you decided under which cup it is supposed to be. They have years of experience doing this scam in Paris and it is near impossible to catch it with the naked eye – so don’t be tempted to play. Thanks to Mike from 197TravelStamps.
Gold ring scam
Someone finds a ring in front of you. You’re asked if it’s your ring and the person discovers that it’s 100% real gold! You’re offered the ring to buy off them. Needless to say, it’s not worth much, so just walk away. It’s not your lucky day.
Salesman / Directions in Paris scam
We met this elderly gentleman driving a car on our way to the Atelier Brancusi. He looked like a normal person. He stopped us on our way and asked an address as his phone was dead. We showed him the address by way of directions on our mobile phone. He thanked us profusely and asked about quite a few questions. In short, he was really friendly and showed no signs of fooling us in any way.
We were also glad that we could help him out. He responded that he’d like to gift us something as we were such kind people. At first, we said it’s not required and started walking away. However, he didn’t allow us to leave and claimed to be the CEO of Calvin Klein. He told us how impressed he was with us and offered two sample jackets reserved for family and friends. We were apprehensive to take gifts from a stranger but he really persuaded us to take it as a token of appreciation. Ultimately, we agreed.
Then, he asked for gas money. We figured that we’d give him ten euros to be nice due to the gift, but my husband didn’t have change, so our “CEO” received twenty. After noticing another bill in my husband’s wallet, the scammer asked for another twenty euros while guilt-tripping us. We ended up saying okay and asked for his business card, however he sped off as soon as he received the money.
We realized we had been scammed for forty euros. Later, we searched online and he wasn’t the CEO of Calvin Klein and the jackets were nothing special. Of course, we were upset, however we didn’t want to spoil the rest of the trip. Advice: Stay alert always and always think twice before giving money to anyone! Thanks to Aditi to Travelogue Connect for her traumatic story.
Avoiding taxi scams in Paris
In Paris, there are unscrupulous taxi drivers who purposely take a longer route and you can end up with an inflated bill. Alternatively, you can end up on an unofficial taxi without a meter charging you unreasonable fares. These “taxis” are common at Paris Airports.
The good news is that you can avoid taxi scams in Paris with the right information and some tips: An official taxi driver will not approach you to request your business at the terminal exit and always parks in the area demarcated for taxis. Official taxis have light-up signs, a license plate outside the vehicle and a taximeter inside the vehicle. Additionally, ask at your hotel front desk for a taxi instead of calling your own. If you’re unsure if the taxi is taking the most efficient route, use your GPS. Thanks to Elisa from World in Paris.
There is a fixed price for taxis from the Paris airports to Paris city center. If you’re travelling from the Charles de Gaulle airport, your trip will cost €55 for a trip on the Left Bank or €50 for anywhere on the Right Bank. If you’re taking a taxi from Orly to Paris, a taxi costs €30 for the Left Bank and €35 for the Right Bank. (Prices updated per 2018 regulations.) They cannot charge you extra for baggage or animals. Similarly, there may be a reservation fee, but that should be it.
Within Paris, I recommend looking into ridesharing apps and keeping your GPS on during taxi fares. I don’t like Uber, however the app was a lifesaver in terms of avoiding getting scammed as drivers will be penalized if they go off route.
Dropping a baby into arms scam
One of the oddest scams we came across when in Paris was the baby drop. A group of women, or occasionally just one, will walk by chatting in a non-English language. All of a sudden, one of the ladies will trip right in front of you and drop the “baby”. As most tourists do people catch the baby, or, in many cases, the fake baby doll. As the women crowd around, you profusing their gratitude others are picking your pockets, rifling through bags, and generally stealing your stuff. Thanks to Jean from Traveling Honeybird.
Cafe/Restaurant with no prices scam
I went to Paris with my family a few years ago. There were six of us in a group. When we were shopping near the Arc de Triomphe, we decided to take a little snack break. We stopped at one of the cute and charming looking gelato shops and began drooling at all the flavors and colors. All six of us got our own cones and then two bottles of water. We were used to paying around five dollars (or so) for a gelato, however the cashier told us that our bill was over a hundred euros. We were in complete shock.
We didn’t ask about the price, however it wasn’t our fault that they decided to scam us. A menu without a price is a big red flag. This was a moderately expensive lesson learned—beware of prices before you order something. This scam is unfortunately common in a lot of different countries that are popular amongst tourists! Thanks to Gloria for her awful experience.
Paris’ public transportation are not only attracting people who efficiently want to get around town, but also snatchers and thieves. Even though the Metro is generally save, be attentive to your belongings. Avoid using your phone if you’re close to the doors – you risk having it stolen off your hands by someone storming away through the closing doors.
Also, if a harmless appearing person drops a bunch of little items and you’re ready to help picking them up, keep your bag close – an accomplice might abuse your distraction and get off with your possessions. And lastly, if the metro announcements are reminding you to be wary of pickpockets – do not check if your wallet is still in your pocket; someone might observe the crowds for precisely this gesture to know where you’re keeping it. Thanks to Lena from Salut From Paris.
Additional note: Be sure to grab your suitcase tight as the door is closing as it’s a great way for thieves to pick up freebies on their way home as the Metro takes you elsewhere. It can also happen close to the turnstiles, so be aware of yourself in the Metro and avoid using your phone if possible…
Have you been scammed in Paris? Any additional scams in Paris to watch out for?
Visiting Paris? Click for more insider tips for visiting Paris, including a free walking tour of the Paris covered passages, tips for visiting France on a budget, and a resident’s guide to 24 hours in Paris.
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