Feb 15 2012

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no escaping… the Paris gold ring scam

I’d heard a bit about this scam but had never seen it, nor have I had it done to me. But the other day, while passing the Louvre, I saw a couple a few metres in front of me, with a tall man just to the side of them picking up what looked like a gold ring. ‘Aha,’ I thought, ‘this looks interesting.’ Sure enough, the man offered it to the male of the couple who shook his head, but then the other man sort of pressed it on him (I didn’t really hear their exchanges and in any case I think it was done mostly by mime, since it turned out that the couple didn’t speak much English or French). By this time, I had passed the couple and sure enough they were moving off, with the man holding the ring in his hand and looking rather mystified, with the scammer just behind them.

I asked the couple if they spoke French, but no. English? A little. ‘Don’t take the ring,’ I said. ‘It’s a scam, he’ll ask you for money for it in a minute.’ The couple were looking mystified. Who should they believe? Me, a complete stranger, and an interfering busybody to boot, or the ‘nice’ young man who’d just found a ring on the ground and offered it to them, for luck, since his religion forbade him wearing such things/wasn’t his size, etc etc.?

But upon hearing me telling the couple it was a scam, the ‘nice’ young man yelled at me in loud and very clear if accented English, ‘F@#$ you! F@#$ you!’ Strong evidence that my interpretation had been correct. The young couple hastily gave him back his ring, and scuttled off.

Apparently, what usually happens is that once the ‘target’ has taken possession of the ring and started to move off, the ring-finder then says to them that he’s hungry, could do with a few euros, would like some recompense for giving them something valuable, or some variation on this. I have heard of people parting with as much as 10 euros. There’s some more information on this scam on this Lonely Planet discussion site.

But I don’t like to encourage paranoia, either at home or when travelling, so I hope I haven’t done that. Still, it’s always good not to look touristy, and if this scam does happen to you, it’s probably best that you pretend you don’t understand whichever language the ‘ring-finder’ addresses you in!

En revanche, as the French say, I’ve had countless experiences in France where people have picked up my gloves, scarf, shopping list, magazine, that I have dropped, and returned them to me before I’d even realised I’d dropped them; and I want to stress that this is far more the norm than anything else in France.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.escapetoparis.com/2012/02/no-escaping-the-paris-gold-ring-scam-3/


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  1. eric b..

    Chère Carlyn, dois-je comprendre que tu es présentement à Paris? En tout cas, le coup de la bague m´ a déjà été fait aussi à l´étranger, notamment en Grèce. En fait, je crois que c´est une astuce beaucoup pratiquée par les Gitans, ou Roms, comme on dit maintenant (aucun racisme nauséabond là-dedans!), et il y en a partout en Europe. Pour moi, un mystère demeure: comment l´arnaqueur récupère-t-il ensuite la bague? Car il ne peut tout de même pas en sacrifier une à chaque coup réussi!
    Par ailleurs, beaucoup de Français emploient effectivement la formule “par contre”, mais elle est très critiquée par les puristes (2 prépositions accollées), selon lesquels il vaut mieux dire “en revanche”.

  2. Carolyne Lee

    Merci Eric. Oui je suis en France jusqu’ au 8 mars. J’aimerais bien voir vous et Sandra si vous etes libre un jour ou soir.
    cordialement, Carolyne

  3. Bernadine Ermes

    Hi Carolyne,
    Yes, this scam was tried on me in Paris in 2010, not at the Louvre but near the Ecole Militaire and by a youngish woman. Must be a few of these scammers plying the tourist hotspots in the city….

  4. Dave Higgins

    I was waiting for family members to arrive at the Air France bus drop off near the Arch of Triumph. I youngish gypsie woman attempted the “gold ring” scam on me. While I’m an experienced European traveller (come here every six weeks or so), it’s been a while since I’ve been in Paris and I was somewhat taken aback at how brazen, aggressive and persistent these people have become. Being in the military, I’m not at all timid in dealing with such folk (basically just telling them in no uncertain terms that I’m not interested – full stop) but can only imagine how many good natured and well-intended tourists, particulalry women, fare with such impertinence. While such activity goes on pretty much everywhere, I found this level of aggressiveness particularly evident in Paris and based upon what I’ve read, can only assume it has gotten worse in Rome and Athens as well. I came to Paris at the request of my French conjointe, but in spite of its grandeur, frankly find it a general turn-off people wise. I much prefer outlying cities such as Bordeaux and in terms of major capitals, consider London, Vienna and Berlin to be far better in this regard. Anyway, my two cents’ worth….

  5. D. Edwards

    Just got off the Air France bus near the Arc de Triumph while waiting for a light to change when I was looking for my hotel. A man next to me drops the ring in front of me and picks it up and offers it to me. I had heard of this scam before I came here so I was on to him. I shook my head and said no a fews time and went on my way. I wasn’t 5 minutes from getting off the bus, can’t believe I ran into this so fast. The rest of my stay in Paris was uneventful.

  6. Jimro44

    Well, haven’t been to paris in awhile. I was down by Madeline and the scam was pulled on me. I hate to admit it, but I fell for it. (5 Euros)A friend of mine and I watched this one 5 different times when we were in Paris. Actually, that five Euros has provided me with a great cocktail story, LOL. Going to encase that ring in plastic with a little brass placque entitled ” Lest We Forget”, LOL

  7. Amy

    Happened to me while i was photographing pad locks on a bridge. Young woman hands me the ring and said “It is your lucky day.” I only wear silver and it was much too big for me but begged for small change for one coke. I knew i was being scammed but i took the ring and gave her 2 euro. She begged for more, held up fingers and said “four cokes.” i said no and walked away. She followed me for a while then split. About 1/4 of a mile later, i was on the river bank photographing my new ring and another solo woman picked one up right in front of me. When she noticed i was photographing the ring, she quickly turned and walked away. They do look realish. The stamp inside is quite convincing…sorry about caps/puctuation. Using ipad.

  8. Bill Wenger

    Walked from Gare de Lyon to Musee D’Art Moderne before noon today, and experienced more than 6 attempts with the gold ring prior to reaching the the Grand Palais. Having experienced such an attempt several years ago, I knew to keep walking, and not acknowledge the person in any way. However, after the first few attempts today I could predict who would try the ring trick when he/she was over 100 feet away. So I turned my camera on, and with the camera hanging waist level from my neck, pressed the shutter with my thumb as the person was bending down to “scoop up” the ring. I have nice photos of two individuals, one showing the bright ring between his fingers.

  9. Mary Fanelli

    I had a very amusing experience with the ring scam. Alone in Paris as a veteran traveler, and fluent in French, he picked the wrong mark. I enjoyed the fellow’s spiel, and while I guess he was sure he had me good, he took my hand to try the ring on when he noticed that my hand was missing a finger. I had a finger amputated. The guy jumped about a foot in the air, crossed himself, pushed the ring into my hand and ran off as fast as he could go. I’m going to put it on a ribbon and hang it up, awesome conversation piece!!!

  10. Lee

    My gold ring scam story is here: http://twobluefish.blogspot.com.au/2010/11/found-one-gold-ring.html

    A very funny experience.

  11. Jack

    This happened to my husband this evening in Tooley St next to Tower Bridge. The man picked the ring off the floor and pushed it to my husband saying that he was Albanian and hungry. My poor old hubby didn’t realize what was happening as he was rushing to get home, said he would hand the ring to security at Tescos, the man turned and ran off. So watch out London it’s happening here too!

  12. Jonathan

    Here in Paris feb 2013: observed this scam 4 times in 2 days! Wondered about shouting POLICE loudly, but on the end just wagged finger at (always female) scammer – who just melted away. Great the way she ‘found’ the ring on the ground just in front of us, but not too hard to walk away. Wish the gendarmes were more proactive…

  13. Simon

    Had this happen to me in bishops gate London. 2 weeks ago ,like others I thought I street wise but a little taken in Glad I shook my head and said no and was entering a shop at that time ,my purchase there probably saved the day !

  14. Paula

    It is March 2013 and this scam continues. There is no problem if you quickly and firmly say “no”, and keep walking or ignoring.
    However, after encountering this multiple times in one day, we were offered still another ring. We both started laughing and said “You people are finding rings all over Paris.” The guy threw his arms up, smiled broadly, and said “I love you” and walked away.

  15. Dominic

    we had the ‘scam’ attempted on us about 7 times. At last, near the Place de L’Alma, I thought i would have a laugh, in my warped London way………….I let the guy start his spiel, then leapt into an animated impression of the Gollum in Lord of the Rings, and grabbed the ring and began stroking it, hisssing “yesssss, my preeeeeeeeccccciiiiiioouusssss!!!!”. Needless to say, the guy backed off steadily and we walked off, cackling into the sunset………..

  16. Adam

    Just come back from a weekend in Paris and we were approached by a woman trying this scam. Very obvious what was going on . Ring was brand new and far to big for me anyway. When we suggested she place it on the wall or hand it in to the police. She looked angry and shouted something in French before walking away. In the same weekend we also were approached by people pretending to be from a deaf and dumb charity asking for a minimum 10€ donation and we also saw people obviously trying to pretend they were bent over homeless person but far to theatrical to be true. Along with the infuriating charachtuer peddlers scamming in Paris seems rife.

  17. MJ

    Happened to me twice within about 20 minutes last month, walking along the Seine near the Pont Alexandre III. Both times I was spoken to in English – and I responded in French that I may be American but I’m not stupid. 😉

  18. Quincy

    This happened to me today while crossing a bridge (I can’t remember exactly where) over the Seine. I hadn’t heard of this scam before so it kind of caught me off guard and I wasn’t quite sure how to react. However, before the woman trying the trick could finish, a couple of police officers approached. She practically through the ring at me and ran off without ever asking for money! It will make a fun souvenir with a story lol.

  19. Pedro T.

    Just happened to me near Galerie Lafayette, first a old woman found the ring, and I said no, then a guy did the same. I hurried up and walked until I found two policemen and described how they looked and what they were wearing. I always heard about this while traveling to Paris, but in about 7 times here, that was the first time, or the first two times 😉

  20. Cherry

    I’ve been in Paris 3 days & seen this happen to other people. Twice in 5 minutes this morning 2 different women tried it on me! Both times I said No. The 2nd one was so slick – I was on one of the bridges with the locks & had been taking photos early in the morning so the bridge was empty – she stooped down, pretended to pick up the ring & offer it to me. When I told her I knew it was a trick she just smiled at me & walked away.

  21. Bill

    We just returned from Paris and we must have encountered this scam four times in one morning walking along the Seine.

  22. Dino

    I was vaguely aware of this scam before visiting Paris but was astounded at the number of people trying it. My wife and I were sitting on a bench staring with disbelief at the cars negotiating the roundabout around the arc de triumphe when we were offered FIVE rings. I suggested to my wife that maybe the pigeons were dropping them ad it might be worth checking the soles of her trainers.
    We also encountered another scam whereby you are asked to sign a petition in support of the deaf, or the blind or whoever and if you do you then enter into conversation and you are worked on to make a donation. You are also leaving yourself open to “wandering hands”.
    That said, Paris is lovely and we would hesitate to return. I might see if I can catch one of those magical pigeons!

  23. chris

    Somebody tried this on us 2 days ago in Paris. I hadn’t heard of it and didn’t quite know what he was attempting but knew straight away it was dodgy. I took the ring and said I was going to hand it to a nearby policeman! When he asked for money I threw it down and walked away…. But somebody please explain, if the victim takes the ring and hands over 5 euro… How has the scammed achieved anything? Is the ring fake? Hoe many of these rings do they carry? I could have just walked away with it and he would have gained nothing? I must be missing something

  24. Gopal

    It happened to me twice this week in Paris……Arch de Triumph and notre dame. They are very aggressive. If you respond with a reason why you don’t want, they will chase you trying to convince you. You have to be firm the first tiime you respond. It was a good learning experience for my son.

  1. The Paris Gold Ring Scam | The Everywhereist

    […] it’s a popular one in France – there are posts about it on Trip Advisor, and on countless blogs. It’s fairly simple, and even now, I wonder if there isn’t more to […]

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