Last Fall my husband traveled to France for the first time on business. Never having been to the City of Love before, he was excited to take in a few of the sights. After a week full of meetings, he woke up at the crack of dawn Saturday morning to get in an early tour of the city before catching a flight home. After taking in the Arc de Triomphe, the gorgeous architecture of a number of churches and buildings, and of course the famous Eiffel Tower, he rushed to his hotel to grab his luggage and catch his bus to the airport.
“Excuse me Sir, you dropped your ring” an old lady, speaking in broken English addresses my husband and thrusts what appears to be a plain gold ring into his hand.
“oh, no, this isn’t mine” he tells her and tries to give it back.
No matter how hard he tries the lady refuses to take the ring back, insisting on it being his.
Now she starts to try to lead him away with her, repeating, “Coca Cola”. She wants him to buy her a Coke, or does she? Who knows. The thought of where she was luring him or who might have been there waiting for him, made me sick.
My husband was confused and not entirely sure what was going on, but he did need to catch his bus so he broke away from the lady and jumped onto the bus, sitting where she could not see him. The lady became angry, yelling and banging her way up and down the bus, trying to find him.
The whole thing was so bizarre and scary, but he was safe and yes, the ring was still in his hand. The fact that it’s even in my house gives me the shivers and makes me think of the “Precious” from the Lord of the Ring series! Creepy!!
Last week, the hubs traveled back to Paris again for business, this time with a colleague who had never been. My husband was happy to show him around the city and they found themselves standing outside The Louvre when a kid approached them both holding out…..yes, a gold ring. This time the ring was inscribed with some writing on the inside and the boy kept pushing it at them closer and closer trying to get them to take the ring to read it.
“It’s yours, this is yours” The boy repeated
Recognizing what was happening immediately, my husband told the kid to move along, he’d seen this one before. The kid returned to a larger group of teens and they left.
Okay, so obviously this whole ring thing is pretty common in Paris, if it happened both times and he spent very little time out and about in the city. So what’s up with these rings being forced onto people? One quick google search on “Paris Gold Ring Scam” and you will see it’s more than common, you can pretty much expect it to happen if you are visiting the city. TripAdvisor, The Huffington Post, and a number of blogs all have articles on the popular ring scam.
Turns out the ring is actually brass and almost worthless. The scammer pretends to pick up a ring near a person who looks like they might be a tourist and gives them the ring. In return they ask for money because they are hungry and need food hoping that the person will give them some cash. Another version, I’ve read is that the scammer drops the ring as a distraction and when you bend over to pick it up, your wallet seems to disappear out of your back pocket.
Should you find yourself in Paris, don’t accept candy ….no wait, rings from strangers. Well, you probably shouldn’t accept candy either, basically if it’s not yours, don’t touch it. Try to avoid the ring being passed to you in the first place because these guys can be quite persistent. Some are more aggressive than others, but best to be aware of the scam and keep walking, shake your head and give a firm no. If it’s too late and you find yourself in the middle of the situation, I’ve read that saying you had just seen a policeman or gendarme a minute ago and should report the lost ring works wonders.
Ladies, also be aware of the Bracelet Scam or String Scam, which is also rampant in Paris and actually happened to a daughter of one of my mom’s friends. It goes like this, a man approaches a lady or group of ladies and distracts you with friendly chatter while quickly weaving string around your finger or wrist or they might just ask you if you want them to make you a ‘friendship’ bracelet or ring. The string becomes quite tight and you are not able to get free. The person (or people, they don’t always work alone) leads you to a bank machine or demands money to let you go. The story as told to my mom, was that her friends daughter and her new husband actually, as they were on their honeymoon, were surrounded by a number of men trying to grab their wrists and put something on them. The girl became hysterical and her screams fortunately scared the men off. Surprisely enough, the couple did find a police officer a few minutes later and reported the incident, but the officer said if she wasn’t physically hurt, there was nothing he could do. You would think this kind of thing would be a concern. Google ‘bracelet scam in paris’ to find related articles.
Paris is an amazing city, but like any other, it has it’s share of petty theft. Be smart and aware of your surroundings, travel in pairs or groups, try not to look like a tourist (harder said than done) and don’t linger long enough to let anyone grab your hands.
Have you ever seen something like this on your travels??