Today, i was with a co-worker killing seeing some sites in Paris before an upcoming meeting tomorrow. As we were catching the RER-C line in the tourist area some young male teenagers, perhaps 12-14 years old, were coming up the escalator behind us and i thought nothing of it as they chatted away like normal teens do. At one point I felt my iphone case on my hip pull a little and put my hand on it. It was there so i just figured it rubbed against the side of the escalator. When i was looking at a monitor on the platform i must have sensed something very subtle because i put my hand on my back pocket wallet and felt my wallet was 90% out of my pocket. After i put it back in, my first thought was it must have worked its way out as i walked up the escalator but then i realized that's never happened before and i turned back and saw the 3 kids talking in a circle just 2 feet away from me. I confronted them about their attempt and they acted like they only spoke spanish by saying to me "hablo espanol" several times. My co-worker, said "yeah, I know spanish Vamanos!" LOL. They didn't move a muscle. I said i was going to call the police to them a couple of times and then they then left. I always carry my wallet in my front pocket when out of country but for some reason i was lax this time. I guess travelling 5 times to Paris over the years without incident made me let my guard down. Stay alert, and stay aware of whats going on around you.
Paris is home to many wonderful things and some not so good. Blessed with incredible art, food and public monuments, it is the number one tourist destination in the world. But like any urban ecosystem with any food source there will be predators. In this case that means criminals and in particular pickpockets. Make no mistake about it, Paris, its streets and the metro in particular, is worked by professional pickpockets on a daily basis.
No matter what you do, as a tourist you have a bulls-eye on your back. Let me share my story with you and give you a few pointers on how to avoid becoming a victim. I should know, I broke every rule and paid the price.
Now back to that day. I love taking photos of Paris, I spend hours walking the streets shooting images of dogs, people, signs, and anything that strikes my eye as interesting. When I do I think of the great photographers who came before me who saw the city in such unique ways, Doisneau, Frank, Kertesz, the list goes on and on. I have a great time and that is just what I was doing that hot day, spending hours roaming the 8th and 1st shooting and enjoying a free afternoon in Paris. It was very hot and I was very tired by the end of the day. That is where my problems began.
I was waiting for the number 8 line from the Champ Elysees back to La Motte Piquet Grenelle, our metro stop. And this is what I did wrong when I got on the train.
1. I stood in the middle of the car. It was a crowded train but not that crowded, plenty of room for pickpockets to work.
2. I did not pay attention to my surroundings. I was tired, it was the end of the day and I stopped looking around at what was going on in the train.
3. I relaxed. I was completely relaxed it was just another metro ride.
4. I wore baggy shorts (my son knew immediately which ones) which left plenty of space in my front pocket where my wallet sat, with cash, credit cards and id, just waiting.
OK, the scene is set, so what happened? I believe this is the most important advice that I can give to you. If something occurs that is out of the ordinary, that distracts you, that doesn't seem quite right, then your spidey sense needs to start tingling because something bad is going down.
It seemed so innocent. The man in front of me dropped his keys on the floor. I looked down and said to him in French, your keys. He picked them up.
I never felt his partners hand as it reached into my pocket but I did not feel right almost immediately. Then I heard a voice from my left in French, it was one of the passengers and he said to me "He is over there. The pickpocket is over there". I reached my hand into my pocket and sure enough my wallet was gone. And I saw him, well dressed in a black sweater and jeans moving down the ailse away from me. I yelled at him, "My wallet."
He moved more quickly now towards the door, I yelled again, Hey, my wallet. At that point the doors opened and he began to exit the train. I had started after him and as he saw me coming he did something completely unexpected. In one fluid graceful motion, he reached his hand into my wallet, pulled out the cash (about 70 euro) and flipped it up into the air. That is right, he threw the wallet back to me. I watched it turning end over end in the air in what seemed to be slow motion and it landed at my feet. By the time I retrieved it he and his partner had fled out the door and were long gone. The metro doors shut and there I stood. Only one passenger spoke to me, she asked if I was OK and I told her I was. The rest never looked up from their books, newspapers and phones. Just another day in the big city.
I got lucky. I got my wallet back with all of my credit cards and driver's license, worth a lot more than the cash and my vacation wasn't ruined.
I hope this story helps you to remember that when you travel in Paris you are target. You are being watched. Some recommendations:
Keep your guard up all the time, especially when tired.
Watch our for crowds of moving kids in tourist traps and avoid them. Walk away fast.
Only carry what you need and never ever your passport.
Keep an eye on each other, hands in your pockets on your wallets.
Above all don't fall for the distraction, whatever it is.
Finally, if something happens don't be afraid to yell loud for help. These are petty criminals and will often back off. It may or may not work, but it certainly will make you feel better.
On Oct 6 2012 approximately 1:30PM Paris time, my wife and I were walking up the stairs from the Batobus stop on the bank of the Seine River at the base of the Eiffel Tower, and I was startled to get pushed from behind.
When I turned, a rather angry looking man had a hold of two youths, and was shouting "thieves" at them ... he pointed to us and said "your purse", and then banged their heads together and threw them down the steps, continuing to shout at them.
Having been warned about the prevalence of these kinds of incidents, and feeling somewhat vulnerable in the middle of a large staircase, we checked to be sure our wallets and valuables were secure (they were :-)), then hurried up the steps to what we felt was a safe and open area. We re-checked everything and all was well.
In preparation for this trip, my wife had bought an amazing purse in Canada, which is not only thief-resistant, but also not unattractive (IMHO). It has reinforced straps (with wire), various clips and zippers, and is made of similar material to Kevlar (bulletproof vest material).
Our overall impressions of France after 9 days were:
1) Thieves are everywhere, and highly organized, and will follow you for quite a long time. Sadly, you have to pretend you are Jason Bourne and watch all the time for "tails".
2) The authorities seem completely unconcerned with this. (ALL authorities ... subway / Metro, trains, buses, police, whatever)
3) To the extent that they are concerned, they have insufficient resources to deal with this plague.
So, our recommendations:
a) Protect your valuables in a safe, thief resistant purse / wallet;
b) ALWAYS BE VIGILANT ... sadly, never, never relax, unless you have 100 meters of clear space between you and other humans who are not in your party.
c) Try to avoid busy periods of the day at major attractions, although increasingly, this is impossible, as with cutbacks in service staff, lines and queues get longer and longer.
We love Europe, but have learned to accept the above as the new reality. Sad, but real.
Travel safe all ...
A proud Canadian, who hopes we can keep this from happening in Canada, also, eh?
I know it may seem like an obvious hotspot for pickpockets but after a lovely weekend, I was very nearly robbed after getting off at the Champ de Mars station walking towards the Eiffel tower. As crowds began to build the nearer we got to the landmark, I wasn't particularly paying attention to who was around me, carrying my bag on my arm and a suitcase in the other hand. I felt a bump and on my left side there was a tanned short woman with a black jumper wrapped around her hands (one of which I then saw was in my bag).
I got such a fright as I had never had this experience before. The woman laughed when I told her to get away and it was then that I noticed a group of them aroundand behind me. It's terrible, paying all this money to go see landmarks and then not being able to enjoy them because you are weary of these people. But just be careful. I've never found the metro threatening at all, once you are vigilant and don't takeout your purse in open areas.
Every year since I turned 7 my family and I have been going to Paris every year. Pickpockets and gypsies have become larger and more dangerous after years and years I remember I could carry a camera off guard on the metro. now whenever you are in Paris metro watch out for the gypsies and pickpockets. Most pickpockets can be found on the bridges of Il de la Cite, the Louvre, and all other tourist spots like the Arc de triomphe. They are all over the subway. I say any of you should wear a money belt if you are tourist in Paris and while you are on the metro. My friend came with last year and he had his wallet in his backpocket. These pickpockets are trained and are very good at stealing without you knowing. We got on the metro station of Palais Royal and went on M1 there were 5 girls in a group standing right next to the doors on the train, and as soon as my friend Ralph got on one of the girls reaching into his wallet as girls walked off the train when the doors closed. Please be aware. A present scam now for pickpockets are romas around Notre dame and the right bank is a scam where these kids force you to sign this piece of paper. If you do sign the paper you will be distracted and eh will dig through your pockets. Now if you encounter them walk way and hold on to your valuables and instead keep them hidden. With a French accent say no the scammers. Another way to stop the pickpockets on the metro is that if you notice that they are pickpockets walk away and if they start walking up to you yell NO! My father says also that you may also yell "voleur" which means thief in French. As you yell voleur the group of pickpockets will stop and try to escape from the public usually be most careful if you are on the meto between 4 and 6 pm when it is rushour. It is a pleasure to help all of you !! Thank you
Have you ever experienced roving bands of bands in Paris? We have!
Walking down the Champs-Elysees on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Paris we came across this roving band of bands lurking unexpectantly in their gang uniforms.
Take a look at Pictures 2 and 3 and you will see the danger. One minute this innocent bystander is walking toward the band and the next instant POOF she disappeared!
Be afraid, be very afraid if you see this around you!
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OK, so I like to have a little fun with warnings or dangers here sometimes. I haven't yet experienced a band of roving pickpockets, so in my fertile imagination and the accompanying pictures I've created a band of roving bands.
Actually this band was gathering for the daily 6:30 ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe which we were fortunate to see. More about that in another tip.
We were recently picked in Paris near Notre Dame and after doing a lot of research we started noticing these gangs of Romanian looking teens all over the city. We've also witnessed several attempts by them picking other people. But Paris isn't alone, we visited London last weekend and saw them there as well and witnessed a gentlemen get picked near Big Ben.
Here's a link to my post about the experience. http://scottmcdowell.me/2012/05/08/beware-pickpockets-in-london-and-paris/
As I was walking the Jardin des Tuileries towards the Louvre, right at the steps of Avenue du General Lemontier I saw the whole scene ready for the next scam.
To my left, two young guys taking pictures of each other trying very hard to look like tourists, to the left, an older guy dress in a business suit, apparently minding his own business, playing the roll of an undercover cop, and right at the top of the steps a 250-280 pounds gorilla type, lambrosian head, very intimidating guy, the classic look out/enforcer, (palo in italian), ready to step in if any problem develops.
Walking towards the trap an asian looking young tourist camera in hand, backpack, etc: The victim.
As soon as he arrive to the area where the two youngsters were taking pictures of each other they asked the tourist to take a picture of both of them together, something that we have all done one time or another during a trip.
The guy in the business siut quickly approached the scene while the tourist was taking the picture an asked the youngsters and the tourist for identifications. The fake tourists quickly obeyed and produced their ids while the asian looking tourist pulled out his wallet which was promptly taken by the fake policeman.
Meanwhile the gorilla was doing his job, standing very close to the whole situation while looking all over the place, he noticed that I was taking pictures and communicated it to the fake policeman who then returned the wallet to the asian tourist, while proceeding to "arrest" one of the youngsters, twisting his arm behind his back while taking him towards Rue de Tivoli.
The real tourist remained there looking at his wallet that seemed to be a lot lighter than when eh pulled it out of his pocket.
The reason I was aware of this scam was because I have read about it in this or another site but also because the week before a group of kosovares had been arrested in Barcelona for performing the same scam.
So next time someone asks you to take their picture, feel free to decline, or else feel free to punch the fake policeman in the face. That is if you believe you can take all four guys without any trouble.
The police in all of this cities is well aware of this scams but seems to do nothing about it.
Thanks to sites like this it is possible to recognize and avoid this situations.
I lived in Paris for a couple of summers ('98 and '99) as a teen. I never had a single problem. And I did some crazy sh*t when I lived there. Late nights. 'Bad' places.
If you pull out a map in Manhattan at 4PM and try to find the Brooklyn Bridge, you're every bit as at risk of getting mugged as your are in Paris. If you're wearing knee-high socks, white Nike running shoes, and a jungle hat at Sacre Couer, the pick pockets are doing you a favour by stealing your wallet. The people who are complaining in this forum had wallets in their back pockets. Really?! They are also the type who rent the Velib bikes for 8 hours and then complain about the charges. Don't you remember what P.T. Barnum once said about suckers? (He was a smart American.)
People who choose a life of crime for a living are actually not as smart as you think. A lot of gypsies couldn't tell you what a tax-free savings account is. Stop being afraid of some glue-huffing gypsy. Look them in the eye, say "Non!" and push them away. Hard. If the cops won't do someothing about this growing problem, the least you can do is face-wash a stupid gypsy when they try to grab your arm.
To those of you who claimed you'll never go back to Paris... good. This city doesn't need another mouth-breather taking pictures of the 'quaint shops' and the big iron triangle everyone is so fascinated by.
If you put your money inside your clothes, no one can pick pocket you. If you don't make eye contact, no one has an invitation to talk to you. Anyone who tries to talk to you while you are minding your own business wants something. Did you go on vacation to help poor people? Nope. You went so you could feel rich. So don't talk to anyone unless you want something from them.
Enjoy Paris. It is one of the best cities in the world, and always will be.
The view from Monmartre/ Sacre Couer is overwhelming, stunning, but so is the pick pockets in this section of town. I was travelling with a large group of women, there were about forty of us, but pick pockets were so daring as to come in between the mix of us and stick their hands in our pockets while we yelled at them. Out of the forty in our group, three had the experience of someone getting caught in their pocket. This section has pretty good bargains for scarfs, but the artists do not really know how to draw people accurately. It is worth the trip, but watch your back and front. These pick pockets are not scared to look you in the eye.
I stayed in Paris for a week and never had any problems, took the metro everyday. we were staying in Montmatre so would catch the metro back to there from wherever we went. We also drove around France for about 3 weeks and never had any problems and visited many major cities. We were never even approached. But you have to be wary of gypsies, when in Florence they approached us and you could tell, so we walked away quickly. I had 20 Euros in my pocket the whole time for emergency money in my front jeans pocket, it wasn't robbed. I speak enough French to get by
OH and a MAJOR THING DON't SPEAK LOUDLY IN ENGLISH, as this website is based in the U.S im assuming these are people from the U.S so DON'T. When I was there i heard lots of American's speaking loudly and i was thinking, mmm are you advertising yourself to be robbed, If you have to speak don't speak loudly.
possible reasons why?
I dressed in black clothes with blue or black jeans, wore black DC Shoes
maybe because I was only a late teenager at the time.
The bottom line is, dress like a local, whenever you see a gypsy stay as far away from them as you can, and if you dont need to carry much money for the day, dont.
AVOID GYPSIES and stay aware of scams. If its too good to be true it probably is.
G'Day from Australia
In metro close to center of Paris this week. Train is crowded and I get on by door. Party of 5 with me is ahead of me and take seats. 2-3 young girls, mid-to-late-teens pin me against door as soon as it closes. There seem to be others around them but these are the two in my face. Guy is to the right next to door, sitting down with legs out, so i can't get around him. Train had emptied in aisles but they still had me pinned, with a don't-move-and-bother me scowl. Also the cognitive dissonace of thinking young girls would never try to physically confine you. Until this week, always thought picks were bump and run. First, I ask "pardon" to get my arm up to the bar for balance as the train left. This is hard because the girls are so tight against me. Yes, I noticed later, they unzipped the outer pocket on my red Mountain Hardware ski jacket (like wearing a bull's eye, i suppose, but it was my only rain jacket). Then I feel a hand coming up from bottom of jacket, which was tight on me - the wallet was zipped in on the inside at the top but the picks would have felt the wallet from the side pocket they already opened. (Hope feeling the wallet frustrated them.) So, instinctively, 2 more "pardons?" to try to escape, and then by reflex, a quick and whatever-it-takes lunge to go over the guy to the right to get away from them. He immediately shifts his legs at 90 degree to let me by. He was running the show, I think, and that was the signal to let me go. I still had my wallet. The girls maintained an awful this-tourist-ran-over-me-outrage-look, according to the party with me, who noticed the situation only after I lunged to the middle of he train. I made no eye contact with the picks after i got away. Upon reflection, 1. I am really surprised they will try to pin you physically and hold you for a long time; and 2. the danger is next time when there is no "cognitive dissonance." If I kick the teeth in on the guy on the right running the show, he might have a knife? Same if I try to stop the train by pulling an alarm rope, which there was plenty of time to do in this case - if there indeed was an alarm rope? Just shouting "pickpockets" seems lame if not dangerous as well. So what to do? I think at least, if anyone physically confines you, don't wait, don't say "pardon" (the Parisien French live in close quarters, but they respect, they do not invade your space, by pinning you against a door on an empty aisle train) - politeness is not required when you have been physically confined by aggressive thieves. Just summon up that old athletic reservoir you might still have, dip into the adrenaline, and go right through or over them to get away from them as forcefully as you can. It can't be good to let them define the space where you have to deal with them. Only question, whether to pull alarm rope on train if it is still moving so maybe they can't get away if train stops. What happens before police get there? Any suggestions?
Like all big cities Paris is not without its dangers . When travelling here this is the city of love and romance with just so much to see and do and enjoy.Recently while in Paris my brother while visiting the city had the misfortune of being robbed and having his wallet stolen.This of course when it happens throws any travel plans that you have organised into chaos. Fortuneately he had his accomodation booked for a few days being long enough to have funds transfered to him from home..I know what this is like as it happened to me in another city.This form of crime of pickpocket robbery, or bag snatching, against tourists is big buisiness in the world and must be treated at all times with extreme caution...Being "Ripped Off" is such an ultimate inconvenience. Favourite places for theives are: Any crowded area with lots of tourists and travellers : Railway and bus stations, market places and music venues, bars and crowded restaurants, very crowded shopping areas..
Be aware of your surroundings at ALL times.
ALWAYS:Carry your bag around your neck NOT just over your shoulder.
Never put your bag down without some form of personal restraint.
Keep your bag in front of you and not behind.
I always now keep my wallet in my front pocket that has and added zipper and velcro.
Also be aware of that "friendly "stranger hug !!!
Don't carry ALL your money in one place try and have a stash somehere on your body!!
Have some form of money belt especially for passport.
These people are very good at what they do....They do it for a living.
Been up the Eiffel 4 adults and 3 children and had a great experience, starting taking pictures around the base of the tower before heading off. The traffic lights took an age to change, jostled behind by 4 kids 2 boys and 2 girls well dressed about 12-14 yrs old, i checked my bag and my wallet along with all its contents gone, i looked behind and the boys face was a picture, i grabbed him and demanded it back, he looked at his side kick a girl of the same age, i grabbed her arm and shouted for the police, she threw the wallet on the floor with all its contents, my husband gave chase, and the police closely followed and apprehended them. We where all taken to the police station and sat in the room with the theives, who had no remorse just stared at us. After being interviewed the police just left us to find our own way home in quite a nasty way with kids aged 4 to 9 at 1 am. Not worth the bother of invoving them as the kids would go home scott free.
Just arrived back from Europe spent 3 days in Paris which could have ended in disaster after trip on subway. Caught train with my wife who sat down I stood up as it was crowded, just as the doors were closing 6 youths jumped aboard 3 girls 3 boys aged approx 17. They started pushing and bumping against me and others I checkd my wallet which was deep in my front pocket only to find it was gone. Thankfully a guy stood facing me pointed to one of the girls, I grabbed her arm and said "you stole my wallet" after a few seconds she dropped it to the floor from under her top. How lucky thank you to the man who say the incident. No other person seemed concerned to get involved. 750 euro cash and 5 credit card nearly were lost. Beleive me it shakes you up I was advised my a couple who had been robbed in Paris that I should have pulled the emergency alarm but 6 against one not sure of the outcome. I got my wallet back but who knows if the carry weapons ?