Turns out there are several different scams happening every day all over Paris. I had heard something along those lines but I never really paid any attention. I didn’t need to. I’m smart. I’m not gullible. Even if they tried they’d never fool me……….
So, I’m going to tell you all a little story. A story that I am embarrassed to admit actually happened. Yes, it is the story of how I got sucked in. How I got duped by a scam in Paris. Not a big one, not a harmful one, but one that left me feeling like a bit of a gullible fool!
It was our second day in Paris. After having spent the previous day at the Eiffel Tower taking photos, playing and getting absolutely drenched when the heavens opened unexpectedly, we decided our first stop the next day would be the Arc De Triumph. In true uncanny fashion, we managed to get a brilliant car park a stone’s throw away, and walked straight to a spot, not too crowded with tourists, where we knew we could take some awesome photos.
Shortly after we began posing and snapping away, a man, quite regular looking, walked right in front of us and bent down and picked something up. Immediately he turned to Peter and I and held out a shiny gold wedding band and asked if we had dropped it. At first he seemed quite concerned, and then proud to be able to return our ring to us. Knowing that it wasn’t ours I instantly felt worried that some poor man had lost his precious ring. As the man stood holding it up to us I went straight into ‘Erin to the rescue’ mode and marched straight up to the nearest man I could see and asked if he had lost his ring. He hadn’t. I then asked another nearby male, who while looking at me strangely, assured me he hadn’t. Thinking back, based on his expression, he probably knew of the scam and thought I was trying to scam him……… I returned to the man. He was standing next to Peter and smiling at my children. He held out the ring to me and said, in a strong accent but in clear English “you have it, for your beautiful family”. I was shocked but thought ‘Cool, why not? Score!”. After all, he had just found it, it was no loss to him. He kissed my hand (I know! Eww Eww Eww) and turned and began to walk away. As I looked at the ring and wondered how much it might be worth, he turned and walked back to me. “Could you spare some Euros for a coffee?” I must have looked a little bewildered and he looked at me, then the ring in my hand, then back to me, as if to say “C’mon, I gave you the ring!”. Fair enough, I thought, although in those few seconds it did cross my mind that if he really needed money why on earth would he not keep the ring for himself…….. Oh well, of course I will help this generous man… (you’re judging me aren’t you?). I opened my purse and took out 2 Euros. I placed the money in his open, begging hand. He looked at it, hand still held out and open, and said “No, I need more.” WHAT? I had just had a coffee and it cost less than 2 Euros. Without skipping a beat I said “No, that’s all”. “No!” he said “I need more!” Well…………….that did not go down well with me! I was giving this man money and instead of thanking me, he said it wasn’t good enough. I took the 2 Euros out of his hand and said forget it. He gestured at the ring, I held it out and he took it and walked off. And that was that. But here’s the thing – I still didn’t realise it was a scam. I just thought the man was rude and ungrateful and wondered if I had just given up a possible fortune because I had been insulted. It wasn’t until the man was well out of sight that a couple of people (who I’m guessing I had kept entertained for the last few minutes) came and told me about the ‘famous’ Paris ring scam. Someone ‘finds’ a gold wedding band right in front of an unsuspecting tourist and in a round-about way offers what is a cheap metal band to the tourist in exchange for some sort of reimbursement. Simple. Peter later told me that as I was frantically searching for the owner of the ring, the man had offered it to Peter for 30 Euro’s and Peter had said “No way!”……..
To this day I still can’t quite believe I got duped. I always thought I was pretty cautious and wary of others, especially when I have my kids with me. On our USA trip my cautiousness (paranoia) led to me feeling guilty for weeks after on not one but two occasions. The first was when a man innocently (I think) offered to take a photo with our camera of all of us outside the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas. My ‘potential thief’ radar started beeping and I said a very short, uncharacteristic “No thank you”. The man looked shocked, hurt and offended all at once. I instantly felt bad. Then only weeks later at a train station in New York City a man spotted us struggling to work the ticket machine. He approached us and offered to help. My radar beeped again and there was that “No thank you” short response from me and hurt puppy look from the kind stranger. Again, I felt terrible.
So there it is. Anyone, even those who see themselves as cautious, worldly and prepared, can be had. Now I think back to it and wonder how I could have been so naive. I laugh at my eagerness to help reunite some poor soul with their lost ring. I also feel sorry for the next stranger who innocently, legitimately offers to help me in some way…………….