- Written by Libertarian Vagabond
- Category: libertarianvagabond.com
- Published: 19 April 2013
- Hits: 5
Picture above: D (Australia) – amused at the ease at which scammers operate in Paris!
Only a short walk from the lavish Moulin Rouge, the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur (Church of the Sacred Heart) sits upon the top of Montmartre; the highest point in Paris.
The view is stunning. Both of Paris and the hive of human activity: buskers, street sellers and the hoards of wide eyed tourists.
But, as everywhere in Paris, both the best and worst of society seem to lie at each of its cobbled corners. At the foot of the Sacré-Cœur it’s the scammers.
Well, to be honest, I am not sure if I would call them scammers. Their frauds aren’t particularly clever and not done well at all. Charles Ponzi would be turning in his grave if he saw what these street leaches were up to!
The scam is a fact of travelling, around every corner. And, I’d be remiss not to admit that I have been done by a scam or two on my miles on the road.
The day the sub-continent beat me….The worst was a taxi meter scam in Mumbai. The scam is common. Jump into a taxi and you are told “meter bad price, bad price, cheaper no meter”, and you say “meter, metre” and the taxi man says “no meter better price”. At which point most give in.
But I knew the scam, so I said “fine, I’ll pay bigger price with meter”. Cue *dumb look* “what you mean you pay high price?” Well, of course, I knew that if it really was a higher price they’d say yes and just take me – but the mere fact they didn’t proved it was a scam. Scam beaten, or so I had thought.
As I jumped out of the taxi (the guy just flatly refused to turn the meter on), I let my guard down, and this is where I got beaten by the scam. A new driver appeared and agreed to go by the meter – relieved – I jumped in. He chatted, was friendly, I saw him turn the metre on. He had me. At this point, I will point out (in a weak attempt at an excuse) that I had just been on an overnight train from Udaipur to Mumbai – of some ungodly number of hours, further we had exited the “back” way out of an out of town train station and pretty much straight into the lap of the Mumbai dodgy taxi club.
Alas, although I saw him turn the meter on – it was slightly obscured from my view.
Half an hour later, arriving in Mumbai he pushed the meter around and there it was – 2000 rupees (around US$50). Well, only about 8 times more than it should have been. In a one way deserted street (which happened to be about 2 blocks from our hotel, not just down the road as he said) and with large packs on our backs, I was hardly in a bargaining position. Scammed bad, I was – as Yoda would say. It seems that he had a dodgy meter.
Lesson: always make sure you can see the meter, no matter how friendly the taxi guy/gal appears.
The string in Paris
At about US$45, my biggest scam loss has been very small in comparison to some of the horror stories – life savings, limbs, kidneys… But there’s one (usually) fairly harmless scam that occurs at the base of the Sacré-Cœur that’s always got my attention. Mainly due to how simple, but effective it seems to be!
It works as follows. A friendly “Parisian” (usually Algerian immigrants) starts to chat and then all of sudden he (mostly dudes but sometimes ladies as well) ties a string around your finger. He says something to the effect that you are now bound in friendship and then proceeds to tie a friendship bracelet from the string. Once that’s done, he’ll charge you “a donation” for the pleasure (usually around 20 euro).
Obviously, it is an opportunistic scam that usually gets bewildered travellers on the Paris environ drug. Before they know a guy is asking for 20 euro and just paying up is the easiest way to get rid of him.
Sometimes there is a sinister element of the scam. The pickpocket. As the traveller is distracted by the string, the scammers mate is fishing their pockets for valuables.
The defence: easy, just walk away and say no. It’s like my favourite defence to the taxi driver saying “no metre” – just open the door of the moving taxi and usually (though not always) grump and then turn the meter on.
Don’t be easy, and you wont be targetedThe golden rule of scams is that the best targets are easy targets. The best defence is therefore in ensuring that you don’t appear to be an easy target! Remember, scammers are lazy! But, if a scammer is silly enough to try and take you for a ride, have fun – troll them and possibly save some other poor traveller from losing their hard earned cash!
Travelling community service: trolling scammersFor instance, the “blind fundraising” scam is often run by Romanian immigrants in Paris. A person will approach you asking you to sign a petition to help the blind/disabled and then ask for a donation.
When you sign the petition you will notice that there are “signatures” above yours with “donations” listed between 20-50 euros. Now, you should notice that most of these are in the same handwriting – the scammers – and that they aren’t too obvious in hiding this factor. Again, this scam relies on bewildered and unwitting travellers.
If you’re approached, do indeed offer to sign the signature – with a big fat “this is a SCAM” in the name section. But, remember – do it with friends around and get out of there quick – the scammers are unlikely to be happy.
What’s the best/worst scam you’ve ever seen/experienced? Leave a comment below!
Authors: Libertarian Vagabond