France Travel Planner by Tom Brosnahan & Jane Fisher   Paris Scams: How to Know & Avoid Them
Don't let a bad, expensive or dangerous experience ruin your romantic trip to Paris!





Like any big city, Paris, France has its crooks, robbers and scammers. Here's who they are, where they are, and how to avoid them:

The Gold Ring Scam

You're strolling along a Paris street, anywhere where tourists go (which is most of central Paris). Someone approaching you from the opposite direction bends over, picks up a "gold" ring, looks at you and asks "Is it yours?"

It looks like gold, but it's actually low-value copper. They give it to you and demand money. If you pay, you've been robbed. If you don't, you wallet or purse is stolen while you were talking to the ring scammer.

PROTECTION: Avoid anyone asking about a "found" ring.

Ticket "Helpers" or Sellers

A person stands by a transport-ticket machine in the Métro, at a bus stop, train or airport bus station. S/he may have a card or "badge" of some sort hanging from a lanyard around their neck. They offer to help you buy tickets from the machine.

If you agree, they will work the machine, perhaps get a ticket or pass, then tell you a price—which is many times higher than the actual price. And the ticket they give you may actually be a worthless one.

PROTECTION: Operate ticket machines yourself, or buy tickets from agents in official booths or offices.

The Bracelet Scam

Itinerant "friendship bracelet" sellers, perhaps near Montmartre in Paris, but really anywhere masses of tourists gather, approach with a collection of bracelets. They urge you to try one on. You do, and you find you can't get it off!

They demand money, and if you don't pay, they may resort to violence.

PROTECTION: Avoid bracelet-sellers on streets—they may be violent! Only look at bracelets in legitimate shops.

"Do You Speak English?"

A young person, male or female, approaches you anywhere in Paris, but mostly in heavily-touristed areas. The person may be holding a clipboard. They ask "Do you speak English?" If you answer, they will say they are "taking a survey," or "collecting for a charity." They may ask you to sign a paper on the clipboard, and/or request a donation. Whatever you give, they will pressure you to give more.

An alternative: they ask "Do you speak English?" and if you ignore them, they say "I only want to know where the Métro is!" They hope you will engage in conversation so the scam can continue.

PROTECTION: Be very wary of anyone asking "Do you speak English?" Assess the situation before engaging in conversation. In most cases, ignore them!

"I'm a Police Officer!"

Someone posing as a Paris police officer approaches you on the street and makes demands: "We are checking for counterfeit money. Show me your wallet!" When the "wallet check" is over, some of your money—or your entire wallet—is gone.

(When entering a museum or other public building, security officers may check your belongings, including your purse, pockets or bag, but this is a legitimate security check required for entrance to the building.)

A bona-fide French police officer will never ask to check your wallet or purse on the street, or for you to give them money!

PROTECTION: Ask to see his or her carte d'identité tricouleur, the official tricolor police officer identity card with Police in the center and identity information on front and back. No card? Walk or run away, shouting "Police!"

Paris Taxi Scams

Persons may approach you at airports, train stations, etc., asking if you want/need a taxi. Ignore them! Follow signs, or ask airport/station officials for directions to the authorized taxi stand.

Use only authorized, licensed taxis which have (a) a TAXI sign on the roof of the car, and (b) a Taximeter inside the car.

Airport—city-center trips have flat-rate fares publicized by the municipal authorities. The minimum fare for a taxi ride in the city center of Paris is 7.10€. Check taxi fares here.

PROTECTION: Do not respond to persons at airports, train stations or elsewhere asking if you "want/need a taxi." Find the taxi stand yourself. Be certain you are getting into an authorized, licensed taxi!

Restaurant Scams

You sit in a café or restaurant and order, or you accept the waiter's recommendations, without seeing a menu with prices. When you receive the bill, prices are far higher than you anticipated.

PROTECTION: Always request and consult menus with prices to learn food and drinks prices to avoid overcharges. Restaurants and bars are required to have menus with prices and to provide them to customers. They are also required to give you a printed, itemized receipt, with prices, of what you have been served.

Cabaret & Music Club Scams

Avoid persons on the street asking you to visit certain clubs, cabarets or shows—particularly in and around Pigalle. Once inside, female "companions" will sit at your table uninvited, will order drinks, and you will be required—perhaps pressured physically—to pay the very high prices. This is a dangerous robbery!

PROTECTION: Avoid clubs that solicit on the street. Look for clubs that clearly publicize prices outside and inside, as required by law. If someone sits at your table uninvited, escape immediately!

Other Scams

We must say that the vast majority of Parisians welcome you, provide help and good service, and sincerely wish you a pleasant stay. Paris is wonderful! That's why it's so important to protect yourself against the small minority of people who would do bad things.

Crooks are creative. They think up all sorts of ways to get your valuables. Because you are not a local (and they can tell this by your clothes, talk, and actions), they know you may be unfamiliar with local customs and practices. They know you love being in Paris and are concentrating on your happiness, not on bad things that can happen. They see you as ripe for robbery.

So enjoy Paris, but always maintain caution and common sense, and follow the safety tips on these pages.

Paris Safety Checklist

Safe Travel in France

When to Go to France

Where to Go in France

Best Guided Tours

Where to Stay in France

Transport in France

All About Paris

Electricity in France

Paris Laundromats/Laundrettes


Paris Girls Secret Society, a novel by Tom Brosnahan


Cabaret Moulin Rouge, Paris, France

The famous Moulin Rouge in Pigalle—a legitimate nightclub, with prices posted outside and inside.





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