Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Public Service Announcement: Tourists to Paris! Beware the gold ring scam


So I was walking through the Tuileries this morning, on my daily consitutional stroll, when I saw a couple of tourists looking quizzically at a woman who had just handed them a gold ring.
What I knew, and they clearly didn't, was that they were about to be ripped off. They were about to be taken for a ride, scammed, cheated out of money. And so, donning my good samaritan hat (because I hate to see tourists in Paris being taken advantage of), I intervened and informed them they were about to fall victim to one of the most popular tourist scams currently infecting Paris.
And so it occurred to me to blog about it, in the event it saves any tourists currently in the City of Light - or any planning a vacation here soon - from being ripped off.
The scam goes something like this.
You will be walking along the street/through the gardens, engrossed in the beauty of your Parisian surroundings, when out of the corner of your eye, you spy a person bend down and pick something up. That person will make a loud exclamation, indicating how "surprised" they are. They will then approach you, holding up a gold ring, and ask if it belongs to you. You will say no and they will continue to feign surprise before insisting you take the ring. They will then ask for a sum of money - presumably in return for the gold ring they found, but have magnanimously handed over to you. A gold ring which, coincidentally, is a piece of polished plastic.
Now, I don't really understand how or why this scam would work. Why would people take a ring that wasn't theirs and then hand money over to the stranger that found it? It doesn't make sense. But given the number of times I have seen it unfolding on the Paris streets (especially in high-traffic tourist areas) it's a scam that obviously does work.
Tell your family, tell your friends. Tell anyone planning a trip to Paris to beware the gold ring scam...

10 comments:

Nina said...

I have seen this scam too outside metro École Militaire and also in Jardins du Trocadéro. The first time I didn't realize it was a scam, the second time I was more informed, but thankfully the tourist didn't buy into the scam, so I didn't have to warn them, I just heard their huge argument...

Another scam too simple and common to be called a "scam" is parisian shop-owners, usually those small " alimentation générale" fruit-stores which are open late in the evenings, who gives wrong - and often VERY wrong - exchange back to costumers who obviously are tourists and not familiar with EURO. Like they give you 5 Euros back instead of 15 and if you notice it (not everyone does), then they claim you gave them less money than you really did... But that's not a typical parisian phenomenon, I think that happens all over the world.

Diana (LaScrumbles) said...

In the Correze a couple of years ago we had a scam going on whereby a man, of North African appearance, would flag your car down in an agitated fashion and state he needed to get home urgently as his child was sick and he had no money.
I, being a gullible fool, fell for this, more in fear at being stopped (and foolishly stopping) on a quiet road and eventually gave him some money and he gave me two gold rings in exchange.
Whilst 80% of me knew it was a scam that other 20% innocently worried it may be true; many friends have laughed at me for my stupidity.

Anonymous said...

I have been approached a couple of times by scamsters offering me the "gold" ring they just "found". The second time I was watching her approach me and I actually saw the ring slip out of her sleeve. I laughed uproariously when she offered it to me....

Anonymous said...

beware of the guy in Gare de Nord who approaches you after your credit card doesn't work in the train ticket machine. He will (even with your insistance that he not)use his credit card to purchase your tickets. He then will remove the tickets from the machine and hand them to you. What you don't realize is that A) he never pulled those tickets from the machine, he pulled them from his pocket and B) he is giving you metro tickets which don't work for the RER. He is very good! He then will tell you your train is about to leave, "hurry!" and you run away after giving him cash for his troubles!

Bryce Corbett said...

Thanks Anonymous - I haven't come across this one before. How sneaky... I love that this blog entry is striking a blow against the scam artists of Paree

Anonymous said...

We were ripped off but sort of knew, our sixth sense kicked in during the discussions. We gave the guy 2 euro to go away in the end, i think. No, at first we really wanted to believe he was geniune. He ticked all the right boxes for liberals from middle class backgrounds. Which is why people getted ripped off because they want to help ...i think.

Good book Bryce. My brothers french wife is cross though, you bad boy. Luv Shay....how did you do it!

Karin (pariskarin) said...

As Nina said, "I have seen this scam too outside metro École Militaire" that's where I had it happen, too, this past summer, but my boyfriend, who has lived here 20 years and who was with me at the time was prey to this ring scam a few years ago, and knew what was up. He actually fell for it the first time it happened to him, and he still has the ring in a catch-all bowl on a side table in the apartment here.

Oh the Gare du Nord one is a good one to know, too!

Just FYI, I bought your book Monday, started reading it Tuesday night, and I am almost finished with it. It's a great read and I am enjoying it a lot!

Adrienne said...

Last October, my husband and I were in Paris for a week and the gold ring scam was attempted on us three times. Twice by the Place de Concorde and once at the bottom of the stairs going up to Sacre Coeur. The man who approached us there actually grabbed my husband's forearm - after my husband told him to go away. It was pretty brave of this guy to grab him like that, as he is 6'7". We weren't sure how to react and decided to just get away from him pronto. Are some of these guys dangerous? Or, being American, maybe we're not used to having our personal space invaded like that?

By the way, we recognized immediately that we were being scammed in some way the first time we were approached. What we couldn't figure out was how the scam worked. Mystery solved...Thanks!

Bryce Corbett said...

Karin,
Thanks for the Gare du Nord tip - and hope you enjoy the book.

Adrienne,
Yes, these people are well practiced at invading your personal space and exploiting the fact that as a tourist, you are out of your comfort zone and hence second-guess your instincts. Rule of thumb: if it smells like a scam, it more than likely is.

Anonymous,
I think you've hit the nail on the head with your observation that these scam artists prey on our middle-class, liberal sensibilities. As for the book, glad you enjoyed it, it was a pleasure to write - as it was to live. How did I convince Shay to marry me? I sometimes ask myself the same question...

Penny said...

No one approached us when we were inParis in October but friends fell for it and were telling us that they also saw it being tried by several people once they knew about it. What a wonderful city we walked our feet off. The best off beat thing were all the skeletons in the Natural History Museum in the Jardin du Plantes.