The Paris Pickpocket: How to Recognize and Avoid Them | Bonjour Paris (2023)

Paris is known for its glamour, its cuisine, its romance, and of course, its fashion. Unfortunately, it is also known for its pickpockets. The cityattracts over 33million tourists a year, so it’s no mystery why it’sa hot spot for sticky fingers. Recently, the French police dismantled a family-run pickpocket ring that was stealing up to 4,000 euro a day at our beloved Eiffel Tower by employing tried-and-true strategies that afforded them to live luxuriously off of tourists’ hard-earned vacation money. Here is what to look out for and what you can do to avoid falling prey to the infamous Paris Pickpocket.

The Paris Pickpocket: How to Recognize and Avoid Them | Bonjour Paris (1)

Attention aux PickPockets (dans La Tour Eiffel) by Duncan Hill/Flickr

The Ring Scam.

What it is: This is one of the oldest scams, but for some reason it has remained somewhat of a constantin the pickpocket toolkit. How it works is this: The pickpocket pretends to pick up a gold ring off the pavement, presents it to you and asks if it belongs to you. If you lie and say that it’s yours (shame on you!), the thief will engage in conversation while their buddy robs you. If you say that it is not yours but like it anyway (which is strongly advised against), they will negotiate a price to sell it to you while their buddy robs you. Their game is all about distraction. Most targets arepuzzled and have no clue what the scammer is talking about, so they end up distracted and a target to the accomplice who islurking in the shadows.

(Video) Top 8 Scams in Paris (and How to Avoid Them)

What to Do: Say nothing or simply nod your head that it is not your ring, and walk away. You didn’t really like the ring anyway.

Sign My Petition!

What it is: I have to say, I have no idea how and why this one actually works because it is pretty basic as far as scheming goes, but like The Ring Scam, it must work because this is another “classic” for the Paris pickpocket. This one functions similarly to The Ring Scam, but in place of a ring is a petition for some noble cause that you are asked to sign. While you are signing your name, giving out your email address, guess what is happening? Their buddy is robbing you. The first time I was asked to sign a petition I was on the lower level of the Passerelle Solferino in front of the Musée d’Orsay. While I did not stop to sign it, I got so freaked out by the approach that I started running. My already-stretched out ballet flat slipped off of my foot, dovethrough the slats of the stairs, and sank down to the bottom of the Seine. I had to hobble on one shoe to the nearest restaurant to have them call me a cab.

What to Do: For the love of all things French, do not sign the petition! And don’t run away like I did. Just be on your way.

The Paris Pickpocket: How to Recognize and Avoid Them | Bonjour Paris (2)


The Eiffel Tower by Alex Lecea/ Flickr

The Paper Distraction.

What it is: Picture it: It’s a gorgeous spring day. You’re on a terrace at a Parisian café, people watching, soaking in the sun and enjoying a glass of rosé. Next to your glass is probably a small bowl of peanuts, maybe an ashtray, the check, and your phone that captured this Instagram-worthy moment as you watch the “likes” pour in. But hold on. Now there is a piece of paper obstructing the view of your table, there are people hovering over it speaking to you, and you have no idea what is going on or what to say. Before you know it, it’s over and they’re gone. Guess what. You just got robbed. The paper (which is sometimes in the form of a petition) is used to distract and confuse you while the thief slides his hands underneath it to grab your phone or worse, your wallet. He is gone before you even acknowledged him. (Note: This scheme also happens at ATM machines, so always have someone on watch when you retrieve cash.)

What to Do: Don’t leave valuables on café tables.

The Paris Pickpocket: How to Recognize and Avoid Them | Bonjour Paris (3)


Sacré-Cœur by Merve illeux/ Flickr

The Grab and Run.

What it is: I would not exactly call The Grab and Run a scheme, as it is pretty primal as far as pickpocketing goes but it is the most common in Paris. A thief will prey on someone mindlessly playing on their phone or blithely listening to music on the métro, and just before the doors close at a stop, they grab your phones right out of your hands (which I imagine for those wearing headphones would incite quite the shock) and run off the train. You may be thinking: But I’m fast and I can run after the little rapscallion and safely retrieve my property. My husband thought this too. But what my husband did not know was that the thief had a friend on the train that was already anticipating this kind of bravery, and slickly extended his leg that tripped my husband who ended up on the floor in need of dental work.

What to Do: Keep your phone confined in your bag at all times. If you need to access it, do so from the bottom of your bag before closing it shut. It’s just not worth the risk.

The Intentional Tourist.

What it is: This one is somewhat new in the assortment of pickpocket strategies. It involves thieves dressed up as tourists carrying around selfie sticks, wearing fanny packs, and some really commit to the role by even wearing socks with their sandals! They seem harmless, just another family on vacation in Paris, when in reality they get you when your defenses are down, and they are—you guessed— waiting to rob you.

(Video) SIMPLE Ways To AVOID Paris Pickpockets (In Less Than 2 Minutes!) 🇫🇷

What to Do: Keep your wits about you and your valuables out of your back pocket, and these sneak attacks are less likely to happen.

Photo credits:Paris: Sacré-Coeur by Craig Booth/Flickr;Attention aux PickPockets (dans La Tour Eiffel) by Duncan Hill/Flickr;The Eiffel Tower by Alex Lecea/ Flickr; Sacré-Cœur by Merve illeux/ Flickr; Eiffel Tower- Version 2 by David McSpadden/ Flickr

The Paris Pickpocket: How to Recognize and Avoid Them | Bonjour Paris (4)

Eiffel Tower- Version 2 by David McSpadden/ Flickr

(Video) Don’t go to France without watching this Confession of a French Pickpocket

Lead photo credit : Paris: Sacré-Coeur by Craig Booth/Flickr


How do Parisians avoid pickpockets? ›

Carry your purse tightly under your arm and slightly in front of you. If you have the backpack-type purse, swing it around so that it is slightly in front of you as well. We don't have eyes in the back of our heads, so keep your purse where you can see it.

Is it common to get pickpocketed in Paris? ›

Paris is known for its glamour, its cuisine, its romance, and of course, its fashion. Unfortunately, it is also known for its pickpockets. The city attracts over 33 million tourists a year, so it's no mystery why it's a hot spot for sticky fingers.

Do locals get pickpocketed in Paris? ›

Unfortunately, Parisians and tourists are not the only people taking in the sights of the city; pickpockets also work this well-traveled path.

Do pickpockets steal phones in Paris? ›

Pickpockets in Paris Metro

In metros, if you're sitting by the doors, either have your cell phone away or hold it tightly, as people will run by right as doors are closing and nab your phone or purse. At ATMs, avoid anyone who tries to talk to you.

Who do pickpockets target? ›

Pickpockets love hitting up tourists because 1) they often have lots of cash and valuables on them and 2) they're typically not paying attention to what's going on around them because they're so focused on taking in the new sights. So avoid looking like a tourist.

What should I be careful of in Paris? ›

A few tips to discover Paris peacefully !
  • Beware of pickpockets. ...
  • Make payments by banker's card. ...
  • Remain vigilant. ...
  • Keep your baggage close to you. ...
  • Keep a copy of your ID papers. ...
  • Contact the relevant authorities after the loss or theft of your ID papers. ...
  • If you are assaulted, call an emergency number.

Do zippers prevent pickpockets? ›

What can you do to protect yourself? The best protection is to eliminate the opportunity of becoming a victim in the first place. pickpocket generally avoids front trouser pockets, and especially buttoned or zippered pockets.

Where are you most likely to get pickpocketed? ›

1Las RamblasSpain
2Eiffel TowerFrance
3Trevi FountainItaly
4Charles BridgeCzech Republic
6 more rows
Aug 16, 2022

Should you carry your passport in Paris? ›

What identification is needed to enter and travel within French territory? All foreign visitors, including European Union (EU) nationals, must carry identification in the form of a passport or national identity card.

Is it safe to walk around Paris at night? ›

Paris is relatively safe to walk in at night. It's a city with a busy nightlife, and you'll likely see other tourists and locals walking about at night. Just remember to be extra careful after sunset. Posh areas are more deserted at night, so be aware of these seemingly safe areas.

What is the main trick pickpockets? ›

A classic trick is the 'stall', used by pickpocketing gangs all over the world. First, a 'blocker', walks in front of the victim (or 'mark') and suddenly stops so that the mark bumps into them. Another gang member will be close behind and will bump into both of them and then start a staged argument with the blocker.

What do pickpockets steal the most? ›

These types of pickpockets would often go for objects that contain your personal information. Some examples are wallets with cards and IDs, phones with pictures and emails, or laptops that often contain important documents and saved passwords.

Where do I put my phone to avoid pickpockets? ›

Keep your phone in the same place so you're more likely to feel the difference if someone takes it from you. Move your phone from your pants pocket to an inside jacket pocket, purse or bag when you're not using it, even if only for a few minutes -- the harder it is to get to, the harder it is to steal.

Can you punch a pickpocket in Paris? ›

If you absolutely must then shout 'pickpocket ' or 'thief' very loudly. Hello dear! If you are violently attacked, self defence is allowed, you can punch as you please. If you are pickpocketed, it's not that simple I am afraid, you may have to prove that punching was the only way to stop the thief.

Do pickpockets steal luggage? ›

People With a Lot of Luggage

If you are pulling along two suitcases and have a backpack, you're going to be a prime target for a pickpocket. You won't be able to watch over all your things since you have so much stuff.

How do pickpockets know which pocket to steal from? ›

They don't employ any special technique; they just seek out people who've left themselves vulnerable. For example, college students often study in crowded public areas, with their backpacks sitting open next to them. A pickpocket simply sits nearby and surreptitiously reaches into the victim's backpack.

What to do if someone pickpockets you? ›

Now What? – The Steps to Take After an Unfortunate PickPocketing
  1. Step One – Stay Calm.
  2. Step Two – File a Police Report.
  3. Step Three – Money.
  4. Step Four – Travel Documents.
  5. Step Five – Try to Enjoy Yourself!
May 16, 2022

Are pickpockets aggressive? ›

Pickpockets will very rarely attack you with violence. If they feel that they have been caught out, they just shrug their shoulders and wait for another victim. Be wary of offers of help and be very aware if you accept them.

Do pickpockets steal phones? ›

Multiple teams of pickpockets flock to festivals to steal your phone and whatever else they can get their hands on. It has unfortunately become big business and is only getting bigger.

What are the best bags to prevent pickpocketing? ›

Best Anti-Theft Travel Bag Comparison Chart
Travelon Anti Theft Classic Mini Shoulder BagCheck Price
Travelon Heritage Anti Theft Cross Body BagCheck Price
Travelon Signature Slim Anti Theft BackpackCheck Price
Pacsafe Metrosafe LS250 Anti-Theft Shoulder BagCheck Price
6 more rows

Are front pockets safe from pickpockets? ›

A pickpocket generally avoids front trouser pockets, and especially buttoned or zippered pockets. If you have to carry your wallet in an unbuttoned jacket, coat or pants pocket, be sure it holds only what you can afford to lose.

What I wish I knew before going to Paris? ›

13 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Visiting Paris
  • 1) They speak French. ...
  • 2) A baguette is bread, not a small bag. ...
  • 3) This is the filter end of the cigarette. ...
  • 4) It's totally hetero to drink white wine on a blanket in a park setting. ...
  • 5) Everyone there dresses better than you. ...
  • 6) You can't wear a burqa.

Is it rude not to tip in Paris? ›

Tipping is not required in France (although there are a few exceptions). You don't need to tip French waitstaff because they get a living wage and benefits. It is NOT considered rude to tip in France.

What is the safest bag to avoid pickpockets? ›

The safest and most convenient style of bag is a crossbody bag that you wear from one shoulder to the opposite hip. A thin flexible wire embedded in the strap makes it slash-resistant to thieves who cut bag straps and then run off with the bag.

What is the pickpocket capital of the world? ›

ACCORDING to a survey by TripAdvisor, eight of the top ten cities in the world most notorious for pickpockets are in Europe, with Barcelona, Rome, Prague, Madrid, Paris making up the top five.

How common is pickpocketing in the US? ›

But truth be told, these petty thieves usually prey on vulnerable people such as our valued elders and students. And although pickpocketing incidents seemed to decline during the 1990s, the following data indicates the numbers continue to rise. Upwards of 400,000 pickpocketing incidents occur per day.

Should you confront pickpockets? ›

Grab your stuff back, talk very loudly telling them they cannot take your stuff, and stay in an area with people! Take a mental note of their appearance and what they're wearing, and if possible, inform the police. Don't try this if there's no one else in sight - only if other people are around!

Is it better to carry cash or card in France? ›

European travelers should always have some cash on hand; getting it from an ATM abroad is usually the easiest, most advantageous way. Credit cards are generally accepted, especially in cities; but check with your card issuer about foreign transaction fees and currency exchange fees.

Is it safe to carry cash in Paris? ›

The currency of France is the Euro. Take sensible precautions and remain alert when handling cash and credit cards in public areas and at cash machines. Credit cards are widely accepted. You may be asked to provide ID if you can't pay by chip and PIN.

Do hotels in France take your passport? ›

That's right. Many European hotels check your passport in addition to asking for a credit card for incidentals. In most cases, you only need to show your passport at check in, or, rarely, leave it overnight. According to Traveller, in the U.K., it's actually required by law.

Is Uber in Paris safe? ›

Is Uber Safe in Paris? Yes. Uber is a safe transportation option in Paris.

Can you drink tap water in Paris? ›

The tap water in Paris is very closely monitored for quality assurance, both by the water supply company Eau de Paris and independent health authorities, to ensure its quality. This means that tap water in Paris is legal to drink per French, European, and World Health Organization standards.

Do you tip in Paris? ›

You won't need to calculate a tip. Not a major one, anyway. As opposed to the U.S., where most waiters make their living from tips, servers in Paris are paid a living wage. And since service is already included in the price, no one is expecting you to tack on an additional 20 to 25 percent at the end of the meal.

Who are the worlds best pickpockets? ›

Apollo Robbins is known as “The Gentleman Thief” because after he picks your pocket he returns your goods. What can we learn? Apollo Robbins has been called the world's best pickpocket and “the Gentleman Thief” because he always returns what he has lifted from his skeptical audience.

What is a person who pickpockets called? ›

A pickpocket is a person who steals things from people's pockets or bags in public places. Beware of pickpockets, especially when making a purchase. Synonyms: thief, bag-snatcher, purse-snatcher, cutpurse [archaic] More Synonyms of pickpocket. Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Synonyms of.

Does the US have pickpockets? ›

There are still a handful of pickpockets working cities, and some old-fashioned troupes on the road, according to Bob Arno, hitting big sporting events and smaller towns with “lax judicial environments” and police less adept at spotting dippers.

What is the best item to steal? ›

“The most popular items that burglars are looking to steal are typically cash, jewelry, and electronics.

How bad is pickpocketing in Paris? ›

But next time you try to buy something, your own fingers may grasp only air as you search desperately for your missing funds. You − and up to 100,000 other unsuspecting visitors − have fallen prey to pickpockets in Paris, the bane of city authorities.

Are fanny packs good for pickpockets? ›

But fanny packs (or waist packs) can also help prevent pickpocket incidents in Europe. If you want a hands-free option for your travels and go with a fanny pack, make sure you wear the back in front of you. Wearing it behind you will make it easier for Europe pickpockets.

What is pickpocket magic? ›

Pickpocket, as practiced by some magicians "for entertainment purposes only", is the act of "stealing" items off a person without their knowledge. Also called "Stage Pickpocketing", it has enjoyed a long association with conjuring depending on sleight-of-hand and misdirection.

Why should you only tip 6 in France? ›

You don't need to tip French waitstaff because they get a living wage and benefits. It is NOT considered rude to tip in France. There is no standard percentage for tips in France. You usually can't include the tip when paying with your credit card in France.

How do you keep your belongings safe in Paris? ›

Keep your phone and wallet and keys in your pocket or in a safe place. Never leave it on the table or in plain view. If someone walks up to you, just walk away or move your valuables close to you and call for help. Call attention to them will put other people on alert and they may try to get away.

Is it safe to carry a purse in Paris? ›

The answer is simple, Wearing a luxury bag around Paris is absolutely fine! After all, Paris is one of the shopping capitals of the world! I would recommend if you are worried, pack a luxury bag that has a zipper closure and secure!

What do you wear to dinner in Paris? ›

For most restaurants and bars, the dress code is dressed-up casual. So, if you do decide to go with a cocktail dress, the norm is for it to be accompanied by tights and a sweater/light jacket. This isn't because Parisians are against showing skin; it's just not typical for this type of setting.

Can you take home leftovers in Paris? ›

Taking your leftovers home is not customary. The food portions are, after all, significantly smaller than many American restaurants. However, since 2016, larger restaurants have to provide a to-go box to avoid food waste. Still, it is not the norm, and you may get a bit of a side-eye.


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