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Paris pickpockets, other scamsters

USA
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Paris pickpockets, other scamsters

My husband and I just spent 6 glorious days in Paris. Yes, there are pickpockets and other scams around, especially in touristy areas, and yet we had no problems, and I think this is why:

1. We both wore black shoes. Sounds dumb, but when we tried to pick out American tourists, we looked for white Nike-type shoes, baseball caps, and T-shirts with logos. No local people wear that stuff. We wore black shoes, neutral shirts (I wore colorful scarves) and black pants.

2. We both used money belts under our clothes. I heard sad stories about stolen passports/money/credit cards lost in a wallet or snatched from a purse. I carried only enough cash for the day in a small change purse in an inner pocket. Credit cards were in a money belt, along with my passport.

My purse had a locking zipper (which I used constantly), metal cables in the handle, and steel mesh in the body to prevent slashing. I think the scam artists recognize such purses because no one even approached me.

3. The 'gold ring scam' is alive and well. We followed 3 women along the Seine, each of them tossing a gold ring in her hand. As likely American tourists approached (white Nikes, baseball cap, and T-shirt), they would bend down and pretend to discover it. I was amazed at how many tourists tried to talk to them. Just say "Non, merci" and above all, keep walking.

4. There are very aggressive 'flower men' under the Eiffel Tower in the evening. They have carnations and will forcibly try to grab a woman's hand and force the flower into it. I jammed my hands into my pockets, said "No!" and kept walking. They didn't follow.

In short, although you can't blend in totally, you should choose your clothing with some care, always wear 1 or 2 money belts for cash/passport/credit cards, don't pull out your giant tourist map and look lost, and whenever approached just say "no" and keep walking.

Paris is a beautiful city. Use common sense and have a great trip!

Terrigal, Australia
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1. Re: Paris pickpockets, other scamsters

Agreed , Paris is such a beautiful city, using a bit of common sense you can easily avoid unpleasant incidents.

Very wise and insightful advice. Thanks!

Edited: 18 May 2010, 02:26
Voorhees, New Jersey
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2. Re: Paris pickpockets, other scamsters

Thank you for your post. May I ask where you purchased your handbag?

Montreal
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for Paris
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3. Re: Paris pickpockets, other scamsters

Would just like to add that there is no need to carry your passport with you all the time, a copy of the info page will normally do as ID.

If you need to consult your map feel free to do so, your chances of looking like a local (even without a map in hand, Nikes and a ball cap) are quite slim and that's okay, Paris if full of tourists. Just take normal precautions, as you would in any foreign and/or big city.

Edited: 18 May 2010, 02:52
Barachois, New...
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4. Re: Paris pickpockets, other scamsters

I agree with your comment about clothing. The more you blend in and look like a local, the less you'll be hassled by the scammers. My wife and I just returned from a marvelous 8-day trip to this beautiful city. We both wore a largely black wardrobe ........ black jeans, black leather shoes, black leather (or cloth) jacket over a solid-colour t-shirt (no logos!). No hats, no backpacks, no ski jackets, no money belts worn on the outside, no white sneakers, no 20 pounds of camera gear hanging from the neck. Despite walking frequently through all of the most "touristy" areas, we were approached only once by a gold-ring scammer (and this was after we opened a map in front of Notre Dame on our first day in Paris). A few of the "do you speak english" gypsy girls approached us but they were basically approaching every single person in the crowd - it was quite pathetic to watch them - their pitch was delivered in a tired and bored monotone and they looked defeated before they even started. Not sure why this scam is still being used - I rarely saw even the most innocent and naive-looking tourists fall for it. We were never accosted by the "string men" or the "flower men".

My tips are:

- Almost all the native Parisiens, especially the men, were wearing predominately black - shoes, pants, and jacket. The only colour seemed to be in the shirts which were sometimes a muted colour. Do as they do.

- Women dressed in a slightly more colourful style than the men, but still relatively modest - not many bright colours. Man local women (from teenagers to middle-age) were wearing short skirts (above the knee) with black cloth leotards (on cool days) or black lace stockings, sometimes patterned (on warmer days).

- Umbrellas are OK on rainy days but opt for modest decorating (i.e. solid black is best).

- Do not wear white sneakers, shorts, ball caps, t-shirts with any logos or writing, or ski jackets (or vinyl/plastic/nylon jackets of any kind - jackets should be leather or cloth).

- Do not wear your camera around your neck or over your shoulder - put it in in a pocket out of sight, take your pictures, and put it away quickly.

- Do not wear packsacks or money belts on the outside of your clothing. Travel very light and keep your valuables in a pocket, preferably zipped inside your jacket or in your front pockets.

- Plan your itinerary the night (or morning) before you go out. Become familiar with the streets and landmarks of your walking route. Know the names of the metro stations where you plan to embark and disembark. Walk purposefully, like you know where you're going and what you're doing. Don't stand around looking at maps or admiring the photos you just snapped. The only time we attracted a ring-man was after we looked at a map on the street.

USA
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5. Re: Paris pickpockets, other scamsters

The purse is a Citysafe 200 (manufactured by Pacsafe).

I bought mine at REI, but they are available at Amazon and other on-line retailers, such as Magellan's.

There are also slash-resistant purses made by other manufacturers, but Pacsafe seems to be the main one.

Birmingham, Alabama
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6. Re: Paris pickpockets, other scamsters

I have a pacsafe purse and used it in for 3 weeks in Italy, Farnce and Croatia, and I never had anyone hassle me. It's not the height of fashion, but it was great. I bought it through Magellans.

Some of these suggestions sound a bit like you are going on a commando raid. I have wandered all over Europe with two kids in tow, and we are what we are. I don't try to blend in, but I also don't want to scream I'm an American either. I don't let the boys were typical American tshirts, but shorts are what they wear. I believe that you should look nice, be comfortable and act like you know what you doing, even if you don't. Some of our most memorable times have been when we really didn't know where we were going; we just wandered and soaked it all in. Be smart just like you would be in any big city.

Victoria, Canada
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7. Re: Paris pickpockets, other scamsters

Wow, to think i have managed to enjoy Paris without a metal purse and without preplanning each day the night before.

I think Innas post is very spot on...

I leave most of my stuff ( cc card, pasport, extra cash) in hotel safe and just travel around during day like a local would,, without all my precious stuff on me. One days cash, and a careful and cautious manner, especially in crowded areas.

I also think one good tip is,, don't make eye contact with strangers,, learn to ignore people.

USA
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8. Re: Paris pickpockets, other scamsters

Love the comment about the 'metal purse.'

But I know a woman who got her leather Coach purse (expensive!) slashed open and all the contents spilled out on the subway car. It does happen.

All it takes is an Exacto knife and a quick slash.

The Pacsafe purses are not particularly stylish, but they are well-made and I think the thieves recognize that those purses are not worth their trouble. They are always after an easy target and the travel purses with security are not easy targets.

Some people say that women should not carry purses at all in Europe, but that isn't practical for me. The Pacsafe purse served the purpose and I wasn't hassled.

Metro Vancouver
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9. Re: Paris pickpockets, other scamsters

Lots of tourists in Paris are from various regions of France and they don't all wear an all-black Parisian outfit. Many Parisians don't wear black only and quite a few of them are careless dressers!!

Unless you asked each well dressed person you saw if they were French, t they might well have been a tourist from Italy or Germany or ......

French tourists are as likely as foreigners to carry a camera around their neck, wear T shirts with US logos and shorts if it is hot enough...

New Hampshire
Destination Expert
for Paris
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10. Re: Paris pickpockets, other scamsters

I never carry a purse in Paris, except a very small one evenings if I have no pockets. The maps, tour guide, bottle of water, and other necessaries go in a very casual, lightweight, tote. It has an inside zipper pocket near the bottom for camera, etc.

No matter how you're dressed, people who appear to have it all together and are organzied, and walk with purpose, tend not to be targets, as opposed to those with vacation wear, huge white sneakers, belly bags, backpacks, who don't seem to know where they're going or how to gt there. You often see them turning around in circles.

If anyone curious approachs or tries to stop you, best is to just keep going. Don't acknowledge, don't speak, forget about being polite.

It's best not to carry a wallet - at all. Remove only what you need for the day and divide it between two very deep front pockets, where it will be virtually invisible (especially compared to a big fat wallet).

For sure, you cannot blend in totally, but it's better not to stand out too much and go for not being noticed.