France – Watch Out for the Infamous Paris String or Friendship Bracelet Scam

Watch Out for the Infamous Paris Friendship Bracelet or String Scam

The friendship bracelet - A FamouS Tourist scam Paris France 

One of the top Paris France scams you should know about before you go.  This scam has been around for many years in Paris and is known by name names such as the “Friendship Bracket Scam” the “Paris String Scam” or by the name given to those who try to commit the scam on you, “Bracelet Pushers.” The scam is committed by who many describe as “string men” or as local Paris merchants call them “con-merchants.”  First time travelers to Paris are usually targeted the most, as they usually don’t continue to be victimized by the string scam.  While the Paris Friendship Bracelet Scam has been known for years to occur in Paris, it is also committed at many tourist locations around France, but across Europe it can also be found in Italy and Spain too.

Paris Friendship or String Scam

Paris Friendship or String Scam

Where the String Scam Occurs

One of the most common Paris locations where the Friendship Bracelet Scam occurs and readily practiced is throughout the Montmartre area.  Specifically the scammers will target tourists and first time visitors as they approach and walk up the giant staircase that leads from the Metro to the Sacre Coeur area of the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur.  This is a popular stomping ground for tourists and is Montmartre’s leading tourist attraction, and probably the most-visited church in Paris for that matter.  Visitors to Paris should also be aware that this scam is also prevalent at many of the Metro lines and stations that are used to get to this location.

The “string men” seem to usually target female tourists (but not always) as they enter the small fenced square below Sacré-Coeur and proceed toward the stairs that run up the hillside.  You can spot the “string men” as they are usually lined up on the sides of the stairs leading to the Sacre-Coeur. These innocent looking people are annoying “con-merchants” who have the “Paris String Scam” honed down to a science.

How the String Scam Occurs

The Paris String Scam is committed by “string men” who find the scam easy to commit on naïve tourists, as well as those with slow reflexes. The scam begins like this. One of the “‘string men” walks up to you and engages you in innocent conversation and will usually say that they want to show you a magic trick.  Before you know it, a “string man” has grabbed your wrist or one or two fingers and encircled it with a homemade bracelet of colored string.

Typically the string men will say something to you like “it’s for the church” or “a gift.”  Sometimes the string men are more polite (they’ll ask the visitor to hold a string) and before you know it, the string men will somehow manage to grab your wrist or fingers and encircle it with a homemade bracelet of colored string, yarn, or other crafty-looking item.

Next, when the string men finish making your new “local Paris string bracelet souvenir,” they will demand payment of around €20 which is quite obviously not what the bracelet is worth. If you fail to pay them, they will doggedly follow you and be VERY insistent that you provide some amount of payment. These “con-merchants” are so demanding, they succeed in intimidating many tourists into paying them because it’s the only way to get rid of them.

Another variation of this scam occurs when the string men find a couple and offer the woman a Friendship Bracelet.  When the woman kindly denies, the scammer tells her there is no charge.  To get the scammer to leave them alone, the woman offers her wrist and the scammer ties the “Friendship Bracelet” on her wrist.  A second scammer when appears and offers another “Friendship Bracelet” to the man. The man thinks to himself, “well if they are free why not?” and then he offers his wrist to the scammer.  Once the Friendship Braclets are tied on the wrists of the couple, they walks off.  That’s where the real scam and push for your money comes into play if you have never seen this scam before.  As you begin to walk away, the “string men” chase you down, and then start to demand money as mentioned previously.

Something else to be aware of is that once you are distracted by the string scam one of the string man’s accomplices may steal something from you while looking like a fellow tourist. They help themselves to the contents of your pockets, or removed something of value from your purse or travel bag while standing close to you.

Videos of Paris String Scam

The following video was shot on the Spanish Steps in Italy; however it is the same scam that occurs in Paris. Here are a few videos that show how these scammers operate and take advantage of unknowing tourists.

How to Prevent the Paris String Scam

String men are not dangerous, just exceptionally annoying – but always remember they are con-artists. Don’t let their presence spoil your day or discourage you from visiting the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur.

If someone approaches you with the words for the ‘church’ or ‘bracelet’ or ‘gift’ or ‘magic’ or ‘trick’ and they are carrying strings, just put your hands in your pockets and keep walking. For those string men who are more aggressive, politely say “Non, merci” but most importantly – keep on walking – do not stop. Be courteous but firm, and the string man who’s targeted you will usually then move on to the next victim. If you really want a string bracelet as a souvenir, you can easily get one free: Just pick up strings that unhappy tourists have discarded on the steps leading up to the Basilica.