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

BY Beth Williams

A Famous Tourist Scam in Paris, France

The Paris string scam in and around Paris (as well as other tourist cities in France and Italy) is also known as the  “Friendship Bracelet Scam” or the “French String Scam.” It’s a popular game or gift to engage you and distract you while an accomplice picks your pockets or bags or to bully you into giving a donation in the spirit of friendship.  While the scam is an annoyance don’t let it rattle you or ruin your day.

Where the String Scam Occurs

One of the most common Paris locations where you’ll find the Friendship Bracelet Scam 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 one of the most-visited church in Paris. Visitors to Paris should also be aware that this scam is also prevalent at many of the Metro lines and stations that you travel on to get to this location. Two things can happen with this scam. The first thing is that the scammers or the “string men” ask you to extend your arm and give you a “free” string bracelet in the spirit of friendship. Then they harass you for a donation and will not leave you alone until you finally give them some money. The second thing that can happen is that while you’re distracted by the artisan an accomplice cleans out your pockets or bag of valuables. Travel with a pickpocket-proof bag  for peace of mind and beware of these scammers while you enjoy the sights! Another prevalent scam is the Paris Gold Ring Scam

How The Scam Works:

Videos of Paris String Scam

Here are a few videos that show how the scammers operate and take advantage of unknowing tourists. The first video was shot on the Piazza del Duomo Milano. However, it is the same scam that occurs in Paris.

Tips to Avoid Being a Victim

The best advice is not to engage with the con artists  or “string men” in the first place. But they can be charming and persistent especially if they grab your wrist. So if you do get roped in (pun intended) be aware of what is really going on. The bottom line is no matter what they say they want to get your money or valuables.

  • If approached keep walking and don’t talk to them, they will eventually leave you for another target.
  •  Use an underclothing money belt or wallet to keep valuables hidden from pickpockets who often work with the string men.  The newest styles of belts are comfortable and light weight, they offer immeasurable peace of mind.  There are various discreet styles for both men and women including neck pouches you can wear under a shirt.
  •  Keep larger valuables safe with an anti-pickpocket proof daypack or bagAn anti-theft backpack looks like an ordinary day pack however, it has built-in design features to help keep your valuables safe. Lock down zipper pulls are a great deterrent to keep hands out of your bag.

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