Please sign in to post.

Paris bird poop scam

My husband and I had just visited the lovely L’Orangerie and were headed over to the Champs-Elysee when we were hit with what we thought was extremely smelly bird poop as we walked down some steps to go under the bridge near the museum entrance. Two women ran over and started helping to clean us up with wet wipes. As they kept us distracted, one of them stole a credit card out of my husband’s wallet and put the wallet back in his pocket. Didn’t realize we had been robbed until an hour later. In the meantime, the thieves charged nearly $10,000 on the card. Thankfully we’re not liable. NEVER thought this would happen to us. We were also approached by the “sign our petition” scammers. Please be careful when visiting this area!!! The scammers are everywhere!

Posted by
5904 posts

This was very common in Buenos Aires when we visited , an old scam. Sorry you were targeted.

Posted by
276 posts

So sorry that happened to you. Still trying to figure out how to get a taser gun past security. 🤔

Posted by
8293 posts

The thief was able to remove the wallet from your husband's pocket, take out the credit card and then put the wallet back in your husband's pocket, without him feeling anything. This is truly amazing. Are you dead certain that the card was not lost somewhere before this pickpocket attack? It just sounds so unlikely. Didn't the wallet also have other cards, such as an ATM card, a second credit card, a Drivers Licence card, a health insurance card? Can't help wondering how the thief would have time to differentiate and take only the credit card. Anyway, buy the man a money belt.

Posted by
6088 posts

Sorry you had this happen to you but it's probably the oldest scam in the book and a good reason not to carry money or credit cards in a wallet in your pocket.

Posted by
5 posts

Next time my husband will listen to me when I tell him not to put his wallet in his back pocket...even if the pocket is buttoned!! Because the wallet was in his pocket after the theft, he didn’t notice the card was missing until about an hour later when we tried to pay for lunch. Plenty of time to splurge on the Champs -Elysee. We avoided other scams near the Louvre and Eiffel Tower, but hadn’t heard of this one. 😡

Posted by
2577 posts

Good reminder not to let anyone touch you even if they are seemingly “helping” you. Say no, wave them off and take care of the substance they’ve squirted on you after you walk far away from them. An old trick. Sorry this happened to you.

Posted by
23860 posts

$10,000. That's a lot. Did they get the PIN too?

Posted by
11437 posts

This is truly an old well used scam , it’s not just Paris it’s a lot of places .

Never let anyone in your “ bubble “ ever !

In Amsterdam a few years ago my hubby thought it was so cool that a young man ( mid twenties ) started randomly kicking a soccer ball to him , they hit it back and forth maybe three times and then the fellow came over and out his arm around my hubby’s shoulder , which conincidently had his hand just hovering over my hubby’s shirt pocket , where conincidently his wallet was kept ! This was my new hubby’s first trip to Europe , but I’ve been going for decades , I immediately moved mans arm off , hubby was shocked he thought I was being rude , I however just saw a naive tourist ( him ) . Guy then left pretty darn fast . Laughing .

My hubby through the was having some wonderful “ local “ interaction . I didn’t buy that for a minute .

What a conincident those young ladies had wet wipes ready to go .

Your hubby was a fool for not listening to YOU ! You were correct , and he was not, wallets should not be in back pockets , it was spotted and you were targeted .

Posted by
5718 posts

Wallets should not be in front pockets either; pickpockets are skilled and easily lift wallets from pockets if they get close. We know several people who have had as much as 20K on the card within an hour or two of loss; one had his wallet lifted at the Musee d'Orsay and by the time he realized it and got back to the hotel and called it had over 20K on it. This is organized crime. We have foiled pickpockets many times (once my husband put his own hand in a pocket and a hand was already there) but once in St. Petersburg he lost his credit card and local transport card -- the only two valuable cards he was carrying and which he had in a case in his front pocket; it happened on a crowded trolley and in retrospect we knew exactly the moment it occurred. We called to report it very quickly and there was already over 20K on the card; they work that fast. US chip/sig cards don't require a pin and they obviously have fellow crooks that cooperate in milking the cards quickly. We have a card with a very sensitive fraud trigger, I am constantly having normal travel planning expenses e.g. air bookings etc blocked until I call in and they still allowed 3 charges of around 7 or 8 K each within an hour in Russia. It took us weeks to untangle it.

The bird poop thing was active 50 years ago when I traveled in Europe then; they often use mustard as a base which wrecks your clothes too --- helpful people or people who need your help e.g. drop a pile of papers or coins or whatever -- are likely to be scam artists.

Posted by
844 posts

I had traveled to Europe with my sister and Dad and heard about scams and pickpockets from the travel agency, so later when hubby and I were going on our first Europe trip I talked to him about pickpockets. He scoffed it off and I was adamant. I pulled up the RS website and asked him to read the section on scams and pickpockets. Told him if he read it and still didn't want to wear a money belt I would quit nagging, but I was going to bring my own separate account cards. He read it and asked me to get him a money belt! 8 more trips to Europe and he always wears a money belt! We were on a bus in Rome on one trip and he had a few coins in his front pocket, reached in and there was a hand there! He talked very loudly to the man and then an Italian businessman also fussed at the pickpocket! He scooted off the bus as soon as it stopped. The pickpockets are really good.

Posted by
3455 posts

Bird poop, squirt of mustard, petition to sign, coin/jewel on the pavement, swarm of children, insistent help with an ATM machine, sudden realization that you are from a country where their cousin is moving -- all tried and "true" distractions in the sense that they keep on working. Exercise vigilance, rudeness (loud if necessary) , move on with determination. And keep that wallet secure, which disqualifies any pocket.

Posted by
31055 posts

As others have mentioned, that's an old scam but still used as it still works (as do many of the others mentioned in this thread). I was approached by a "helpful individual" in a rail station who said I had bird droppings on my back. I told him to "take a hike, I'll deal with it at the hotel" and he slinked off into the shadows. As it turned out there was nothing on my clothing.

It's always a good idea to wear a Money Belt for storing valuables such as Passports and credit cards. I always keep some daily expense money in an accessible (but reasonably secure) shirt pocket, and the rest goes in my money belt.

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks, all, for your comments. Although we feel like idiots, it could have been worse! My husband will listen to me from here on in! 😉

Posted by
6439 posts

Yes I remember the scammers by the Orangerie. They kept asking me "speak English?" and I acted like I did not understand. There was even a fake wedding ring left on the table outside there that my sister fell for until the guard through it on the ground and said watch out for pick pockets.

Posted by
2567 posts

"$10,000. That's a lot. Did they get the PIN too?"
You do not need a PIN to use an American credit card.

Posted by
15621 posts

Gee, I guess I did not get scammed. Standing under a lamp post in Paris, a pigeon pooped on me and nobody came running except my wife who was laughing her xxx off.

Posted by
2747 posts

My wife has been literally pooped on a few times over the years in different countries. No scam those times.

Posted by
2847 posts

sudden realization that you are from a country where their cousin is moving

That part is not usually a scam. I've had several people overseas say things like: "Where are you from in the US" "Oh, Maine; perhaps you know my cousin in Detroit."

Posted by
23 posts

In Paris two weeks ago. Thanks to this forum, we were prepared for the scammers. It happened! Approaching the Eiffel Tower, a woman yelled out to my husband, "sir, you dropped something!" She ran near him and picked up a "bubble gum machine looking" wedding band. "This is yours," she asked. We firmly said "no" and quickly walked away, with strong body language, that sent a message to leave us alone. It worked!

Endorse neck money holders. Both of us carried nothing in our pockets! Nothing there, nothing to pickpocket!

Posted by
1 posts

This just happened to my husband and me yesterday outside l’Orangerie!!! We didn’t realize what was happening at the time. We just wanted to get back to the hotel to clean up! We smelled aweful! It ruined our plans for the rest of the afternoon but at least they didn’t steal anything. I love my pacsafe bag. I had my credit cards in the RFID safe pocket and it is very difficult to open the zippers on these bags. I always wear it crossbody. so it is really secure. The woman worked a long time “cleaning my hair” while the man “cleaned my husband’s pants.” They try to get you to not look at your partner. Watch out!!! They seemed like very kind people! I even thanked her for helping me!!! It seemed odd at the time that she had an endless supply of wipes but I was distracted by the idea of bird poop in my hair. Yuck! I woke In the middle of the night with the suspicion that this was a scam, then googled it. No doubt in my mind.

Posted by
5 posts

So sorry to hear you were hit! Wish we had reported it to the police at the time. Did you? The police need to do a much better job of policing these high tourist areas. Glad you didn’t have anything stolen, though! In addition to the darn-awful smell, the fake poop ruined my clothes, too. 😖

Posted by
3144 posts

Wallets should not be in front pockets either; pickpockets are skilled
and easily lift wallets from pockets if they get close.

Janet, where do you recommend men keep their wallets? My husband will not wear a money belt or the kind that hangs around the neck. He usually keeps his in his back pocket and I recommended he put the wallet in his front pocket. We live in NYC yet really don't come across pickpockets...yet! LOL

This thread is enlightening. Unlike most others here, I had no idea about the bird poop scam, mustard scam, petition scam, etc. In NYC, petitioners are out but they really want us to sign their petitions.

Like Norma said above, I also was amazed that a pickpocket grabbed the OP's husband's wallet, stole a credit card, and then RETURNED the wallet back in his pocket. That is a lot of effort and increases the risk of being caught with a hand in the pocket a second time. Why not keep the wallet including the cash?

Posted by
768 posts

I Carry my RFID wallet in my front pocket that is velcroed so I should feel the velcro parting,I have done this since 2008 when traveling in Europe and always spend our last week of our trip in Paris.
Mike

Posted by
3455 posts

Also, in Paris, beware of persons pushing a supposed petition in your face as distraction. Too bad, but Rude = Safe in some crowded situations.

Posted by
5718 posts

We know two people who had wallets taken from velcroed pockets and each was astounded they didn't notice -- one was a cargo pants knee pocket and the other a front pocket.

Posted by
17089 posts

I think the people most at risk are those who think they are safe if they carry their wallets in a front pocket and therefore have no qualms about carrying hundreds of euros around with them. Pickpockets are easily able to pick a front pocket if they choose to target you, especially if they operate in a team and use one of the distraction techniques.

There are several options for pocket-like things that either drape over belt loops (inside pants) or can be sown in to create a secret pocket.

Losing money is very annoying. Losing ATM cards and credit cards is worse. At the very least, you must take precious travel time to report the losses, and you'll be without those cards for days (often until the end of your trip). You'll still be cleaning up the mess when you return home if you have any auto-payments set up on those cards.

Posted by
129 posts

I feel compelled to share another scam or, something market frequenters should be aware of. In my many trips to Paris I have been so touched by many, many kind and helpful people. Recently and two years ago though I was short changed at the Maubert outdoor market. As many travellers frequent the markets, want to share so you are careful.

When it first happened I was pretty sure I was short changed but with others waiting for service and the language barrier, let it go. This time I told the lady she gave me the wrong change. She looked into my hand and changed a few coins. In a loud voice I stated she owed me change from a twenty not a ten. She quickly added €10 to my change...she knew. So while I know the vast majority of people are honest, I arrive at markets now with enough small change so I can hand over the exact amount or close to it.

Posted by
5718 posts

Continental -- if your husband won't secure his money then your best bet is to be the one that carries the credit card (and make sure you have two cards,one which is secure somewhere so you don't end up with no card when the one he losses is cancelled. ) 'He won't' do this or that -- well then he has a high risk of losing wallet so. minimize what is carried in case he does. I personally use inside hidden zipped pockets in clothing and buy clothing designed to provide this, but in very warm weather that is difficult. A front pocket is more secure than a back one but it is not secure.

Posted by
12135 posts

Never happened to me in Paris or anywhere else. If I did get hit by that fake bird poop, I wouldn't want any strangers pretending to have my best interests at heart rushing over towards me. Seeing who they are, I would be trying to ditch them. I carry wipes anyway exactly for this sort of contingency.

Posted by
3144 posts

I appreciate that, Janet. He will be meeting me in Paris so I can't carry the credit cards/debit cards for him. I will do it when we begin our travels together on that trip starting with Thalys to Dortmund. Again, thank you.

I WILL offer to take at least one of his cards with me when I leave a few days early.

Posted by
1846 posts

For Continental,
You asked why pickpockets returned the wallet to the pocket and just didn't keep it. Keeping the wallet likely would have alerted the gentleman to the theft; whereas, if they return the wallet, he would not know (as he did not) until he went to pull out his credit card for use, that he had been robbed. Since he would not have reported the stolen credit card until that time, they had all that undiscovered time to run up more on the credit card (before the bank was notified to shut down the credit card). Actually quite cunning behalf of the thieves.

Posted by
260 posts

Friends were in Paris for 3 weeks..... they are seasoned travelers. Husband feels a hand in his FRONT pants pocket where he carried nothing.....he reacted instinctively and grabbed the hand of the pickpocket and would not let go.......they caused a scene and police came immediately. Everyone got a ride to police station with sirens blaring where the husband pressed charges. The police told them they have a hard time arresting these folks because people don’t press charges.

Posted by
1 posts

My husband and I just experienced this scam. Fortunately, we have both traveled quite a bit and are possibly a little over-cautious about where/how we stash our credit cards, etc. The couple that stopped to "help" us (and as someone mentioned, wasn't it a coincidence that two people with large packs of wet wipes just happened to be there) quickly realized I wasn't going to put down the bag I had clutched tightly in front of me, and my husband's back pockets were empty as were his coat pockets, so their help quickly abated, they threw a couple of additional wetwipes to us, and the next time we looked they were out of sight. I didn't realize it in the moment but my husband immediately was suspicious. Gosh that stuff they use stinks!!! Does anyone know what it is? I was just relieved when I realized it wasn't really bird poop in my hair...but still not happy there was stinky stuff there!

Posted by
53 posts

I could never wear a money belt or a neck wallet, too uncomfortable, but for 18 years now I've been traveling with a zippered pouch, about the size of a letter-size envelope, that has a loop that passes through my belt, and then hangs inside my pants just below the waistline. It contains my passport, credit and debit cards, and most of my cash. In my pants pockets I only carry a handkerchief and about $10-40 in local currency for the day, so that I don't have to fish the secure wallet out of my pants every time I want to buy a gelato.

https://www.magellans.com/itemdy00.aspx?ID=112,3728&T1=MSV010MG

We always carry wet wipes with us, so if hit with this scam would be able to decline their "assistance"

I'm in the camp who believes the bird poop scammers probably aren't the ones who took the credit card, it seems improbable they'd bother to replace the wallet since doing so would double their risk of detection. Credit card was probably lost earlier in the day at a store or somewhere else the husband took the wallet out.

The OP's "The scammers they are everywhere!" comment reminded me of this scene from Casablanca:

https://youtu.be/JW5bcI0ADCY?t=6

Twelve trips to Europe, including Greece and Turkey where scammers and pickpockets are supposed to be especially bad, one trip to Tanzania, and I can't remember how many trips to Mexico and the Caribbean, and I've never had my pocket picked or fallen prey to a scam. I've had a cabbie or two try to take the scenic route, and in Venice had a restaurant try to jack up our charges, but that's about it. Sure, it's frustrating if you're the unlucky one who does get taken, but I think we should avoid being too alarmist about scammers and European travel. The vast majority of travelers enjoy their trips without incident.

Posted by
5 posts

Fellow Travelers,
I know this story is extremely hard to believe, but it did happen as I've written! If the scammers had taken the wallet, or everything out of the wallet, we would have noticed right away since my husband looked in his wallet briefly after we walked away to make sure nothing was taken. We didn't notice that particular card was gone until we went to pay for lunch about an hour or so later. Since we were near the Champs-Elysee, all of the charges were at high-end designer stores--Gucci, etc. One charge alone was for just under $5,000. Another thing to note: I had an alert on my credit cards that I was traveling in France, but I didn't get them because I had changed the SIM card in my phone so that I had a French phone number. Another lesson learned!

Posted by
1700 posts

I easily believe the charge amount total.
Often these stolen cards are given out to many people to charge up a bunch on them since they know the time they will have the card working is short.

As to taking the wallet out and putting it back, maybe more likely they just reached in and grabbed a card out of the wallet. Luck of the draw and they ended up with a credit card instead of a useless library card.

Sorry for the loss to the OP, this scam is particularly nasty since it also has a smell and clothes ruining component.
Hopefully someone in the know gets targeted next time and the helpful wipers get a taste of their own medicine in return.

Myself I have never been a victim, I don't like the idea of wearing a money belt, neck wallet or similar. I do wear a brand of cargo shorts and cargo pants (not the old really baggy type). Anyway, they have a zippered pocket around the upper knee area which is really tough for pick pockets to get access to and a place where watching over it is fairly easy. The zipper is small and hidden by a flap so even as a wearer opening the zippered pocket is not that easy.
May be a good solution for some people above with concerns on where to place valuables.
I love them for any city trip and find the additional pockets really valuable when doing normal tourist activities (unrelated to theft prevention). The pant version is formal enough for any restaurant but they are designed for hiking/traveling.

I know there are some travel specific pants and shorts now being sold with interior sewn pockets as well for even more protection.

Posted by
17089 posts

I met a fellow-tourist a few years ago who was with someone wearing cargo pants on a day-trip. A wallet was lifted from the lower pocket without any of the four people noticing anything at the time. If your money isn't down inside your clothing in some sort of enclosed pouch, it is to some degree vulnerable. I think experienced travelers know that and try not to let their guard down. New travelers may believe they've found a safe solution when they have not. That false sense of security sometimes leads people to wander the streets with hundreds or thousands of euros.

Posted by
12135 posts

"The scammers are everywhere." That could be, even if exaggerated, to make a point. Then the answer can be, so what?" Does that make difference with scammer swarming around a tourist site?

A few years back I was in the area of Sacre Coeur and the "string" scammers were around, certainly more than one. Admittedly, I was caught off guard by about three of them, so I said something totally idiotic, they gave up on me and walked away.

After that I thought that it was a "close one, decided to stay around watching how "they" worked the tourists there, especially women tourists were accosted, Americans and Europeans. Some of them actually put their finger through the string loop. Some walked away, most stopped to hear what they had to say instead of ignoring the scammers. All in all I was surprised at how polite these women were at guys whose intent was to scam them.

Posted by
12135 posts

I don't wear cargo pants...a dead give-away, besides it's not me, which, in a way, in France and elsewhere in Europe is irrelevant as I am an obvious tourist anyway. I expect the locals to spot me out as such.

Posted by
1700 posts

My wife occasionally tries to fit in attire wise, I am perfectly fine being recognized as a tourist.
If you are not dressed for work and at 11 AM on a Tuesday you are walking in a city, you are a tourist.

Posted by
145 posts

I just carry the cash I need for the day in a zipped hidden front pocket maybe a credit card
Columbia makes shorts and pants with the zipped pocket behind a full pocket very nice
I would hope a zippered pocket makes it a little harder to access
Money belt around my neck when traveling
And I am vigilant about nobody touching me or someone too close to me
But mostly leave things back in the room.

I am always Aware on trains , metros and in the station areas

We are also visiting Paris in May