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New scam or old one?

Recently traveled to Paris and came upon almost all the scams listed in the book. However, 1 that was not listed and I’m not sure of. We were at Pere Lachaise cemetery. We were checking our map to get our bearings when a man came up seemingly out of nowhere to,ask if we needed directions. Said sure and he offered to show us a couple of the more prominent graves. After taking us around for about an hour we said we could manage on our own and that’s when he demanded or asked for a tip. My friend offered him 20 euros and he said that wasn’t enough. We then said we hadn’t asked him to show us around and we started looking around for a police or an employee. He left without pushing it.

Posted by
293 posts

Sounds like a "money-making opportunity" - he shoulda taken the twenty euros! You were "sought out" when you pulled out your map. I think that if it were not a scam, he would have been happy with the 20 EU.

In the late nineties, three of us women went to the Louvre, and found ourselves alone in that huge room with the twelve or so giant Rubens paintings. An elegant older gentleman offered to tell us about the paintings, and it took a good two hours, in elegant French-tinged English. At the end of it, we were enamoured of him! He said he sometimes taught at the Sorbonne, and we said we got a million-dollar tour for free. We offered to feed him dinner or a glass of wine or something, but really, it was his pleasure, and ours too.

Did you see Jim's grave? I have never found it . . . will look sincerely next time.

Posted by
8058 posts

Not a scam but an old practice that if you look a little closer you will see it happening around you all the time. Believe it or not there are people that feel guilty about being fortunate in this short life or lonely and feel better about themselves when they get that kind of attention and can give money to people for it.

Posted by
5413 posts

Happened to me in Dallas. I was standing looking over at the grassy knoll when a man approached me and started pointing out who was where etc when JFK was assasinated. At first I thought he was just being friendly but then I soon realised what was coming. I tried to interject and then start walking away before he demanded $15 for his "guidework". I told him in no uncertain terms that I wasn't falling for it at which point he became a bit aggressive and started accusing me of being racist!

In the end I gave him $5 just to get rid of him.

Posted by
546 posts

Just spent 8 days in Paris and did not experience even a hint of any scam or trouble or pickpockets.

Of course I have no mercy on these folks in telling them NO right away and not even giving them a chance to get started on me. 40+ years of traveling the off beat places of the globe has given me a finely tuned antennae for that kind of stuff.

But Paris was a joy not any hint of anything like a scam just smiles and really friendly and helpful people.

Posted by
5413 posts

You probably missed out on learning who really killed JFK.

It's ok, thanks to Alex Jones I now know.

Posted by
228 posts

Something like this was happening in various Italian cities when we were there in 2016. The most common was in public car parks where, upon entering and spotting an empty space, a guy would appear in front of the car, waving us toward the space we were heading for anyway. Once parked, a 'tip' was forcibly requested, always denied. In one case, the guy got VERY agitated. However, it was clear that all these people were immigrants, possibly illegal immigrants, so with police usually not too far away, I was prepared to be as forceful as they were. They needed trouble less than I did. It scared the heck out of my wife though, every time.

I would however, always hang around for a while, keeping the hire car in line of sight, just in case their anger was vented on the car. It never did, I'm happy to say.

While visiting Rome, we saw many such people being chased by police because they were hassling tourists.

Posted by
5413 posts

This happens in Spain as well although when in Palma I was quite happy for their 'assistance' as finding a parking space was a lengthy, tiresome affair and to see one of these men identifying a spot was quite handy. I always gave them a Euro as I felt they saved me the bother of driving round and round searching for a space. I don't consider it a scam but rather a way to make a bit of money. They were all African immigrants so their opportunities to make money are quite limited (leaving aside the arguments about whether they should be there or not) and it's certainly more helpful than the usual trick of handing you a piece of wooden tat and demanding payment for it.

Posted by
2791 posts

In Istanbul it seemed that every random person who approached us and struck up a conversation had a relative whose child lived in our township, and we needed to come meet the parents at their shop. eh there was the old guy with the shoe repair kit who surreptitiously let his brush drop as he passed you, and was so grateful for you retrieving it for him immediately went to try to shine your shoes (cloth sneakers??) while his other hand had grabbed you for a handshake that would not release. We eatched how he released his brush on another passerby the day after he tried this on us..

Posted by
472 posts
  • Person with parrot on shoulder asks you if you want to take a picture with their bird.

  • Person with parrot on shoulder asks you if you want to buy an authentic pirate treasure map.

-- Mike Beebe

Posted by
3580 posts

Man offers to help with luggage. If I need it I tip him for his help. If I don't need it I say "no, thank you." Woman offers to help with luggage. I usually need it and appreciate that she is just being helpful! Person approaches tourist with a clipboard and wants a signature. It's a scam; don't sign. Person approaches with a ring he just found and wonders if it could be yours. It's a scam. Walk away. In my case I just laughed. All these years I had been reading about the ring scam and had never seen it in action. This was at the Champ de Mars near the Eiffel Tower. Almost always if I am asked "Do you speak English?" I know a scam is coming up, but NOT ALWAYS. Sometimes it is truly someone who needs some help. I've even asked that question myself at times. Just assess the situation and check if you feel safe. Once I turned it around and asked the man "Do you speak English?" He admitted he did not!

Posted by
2630 posts

I only had a good experience in Pere Lachaise--walked past a couple of gardeners sitting in a van and one whispered, "Tres jolie!" Made my whole day and I gave him a cheery "Merci beaucoup!" Otherwise I do not engage when approached by seemingly helpful people in foreign cities.

Posted by
7710 posts

Similar activity in train stations, guy in uniform looking outfit asks what train, then points or walks you over to the platform, maybe directs you to a seat, then asks for hefty tip.

I avoided that when I pointed out that he was directing me to the wrong train.

Posted by
16894 posts
  • Person puts a parrot on your shoulder, unasked and unbidden, while you're trying to eat dinner.
Posted by
308 posts

It is really hard to strike a balance between leaving yourself open to genuine interactions with people and not allowing yourself to be susceptible to a scam!

In 2006, my sister and I happened to be in Budapest on the 50th anniversary of the 1956 uprising, and we found ourselves in an area where there was a riot along with riot police, helicopters circling overhead, and tear gas being used. We turned around immediate after we smelled the tear gas, but stopped to regroup because the riot was blocking access to public transportation. A man walked up to us and asked if we were Americans and when we said yes, he asked if we needed directions. First, he explained the sociopolitical situation that led to the riot, then he gave us walking directions to where we wanted to go. It turns out he was an American living in Budapest and was simply trying to help us out. He gave us a recommendation for a good restaurant, and advised us that we should be safe as long as we avoid anybody carrying a flag!

My point is that we could have brushed him off as a scam artist, but it would have been our loss. We most likely would have gone back to the hotel to wait for the riot to die out, instead of experiencing Budapest.

Posted by
3259 posts

As Rita says

It is really hard to strike a balance between leaving yourself open to genuine interactions with people and not allowing yourself to be susceptible to a scam!

I try to speak with anyone who speaks with me. I keep my personal space, don't accept help unless I need it, but I've had wonderful conversations with people who, it seems like, many of you miss. If it is a scam, I politely return it back to them; i.e., "you keep the gold ring, I'm sure you need it more than I do", etc. I've had lovely conversations on park benches with who knows whom, initially, but often turns into a lovely respite. Sometimes I end up saying 'va via' to the person if my gut says matter where I am, but more often than not, I interact. I don't travel to isolate myself from people.

Posted by
9037 posts

It is not a scam. It is someone trying to make some money by doing some guiding.
If you didn't want a guide, you should have told him right away, but you didn't. You followed him around, he showed you things for an hour. That he asked for too much money is basically stupid on his part. 20€ for an hours work is a bit steep for an unlicensed guide. A real guide would have asked for 50-60€ per hour.

Where does the scam part happen here?

Posted by
4535 posts

I agree with some of the others that it can be hard to tell when someone is being genuinely helpful (which happens a lot) and when they are trying to earn themselves some money (which happens a lot).

My rule of thumb? If I don't need any help, then I tell them so and if they persist, I know they are looking for money. If you do partake of their "services," it would be rude not to pay them a little something. But don't let them pressure you into an exorbitant rate. 20 euro for an hour is quite a lot - he should have taken it.

Posted by
7710 posts

It is not a scam, it is someone trying to make some money guiding

Perhaps, but then they should introduce themselves as a guide, maybe indicate what makes them a worthy guide, maybe present some type of permit or authorization as is required in many places, then discuss cost.

To leave price negotiation until the end without first indicating it was a paid service smells like a scam, or at the minimum a recipe for abuse or intimidation.

Posted by
2916 posts

You probably missed out on learning who really killed JFK.

"It's ok, thanks to Alex Jones I now know."

It was Obama, right? Either him, or Hillary.

By the way, I totally agree with Paul's last comment. A few times in the distant past people have come up to me and my wife on the streets of Paris when we were looking at a map and asked where we were trying to go. Either they just liked being helpful, or wanted to practice their English. But in every case it never went beyond giving us directions; no one offered to be our guide.

Posted by
124 posts

When I was boarding a train in Rome, a woman tried to grab my bag and said she would help me. I pulled it away from her and told her "No." She held her hand out anyway, and then cursed at me when I walked away.

Regarding the humor above, "You probably missed out on learning who really killed JFK," I had to look up Alex Jones; I'd never heard of him. But detectives usually look to see who profits the most from the crime or had a grudge.

Posted by
7 posts

Trust your gut. I was on a commuter train from Dublin to an hour outside the city. A professor from Trinity chatted my husband and I up the entire time. He was working on a book about American slaves and Irish immigrants. The convo was priceless. I love talking to locals. I have been a hotel concierge for 10 years and hopefully can read people a little. Still I would rather get a 20 euro tour scam and laugh about it then not live a little.

Posted by
5413 posts

Of all the places to be approached by a scammer, my local Sainsbury's car park on a Sunday morning was not one that would immediately spring to mind!

I had just parked at the recycling bins to offload my glass bottles when a suave looking 'Italian' pulled up alongside and asked if I spoke Italian. I replied "no" and he then launched into his spiel. He told me that he'd popped into Sainsbury's to buy some salmon but didn't like what he saw(?) and that he was on his way to Gatiwck having been on a business trip to provide samples of jackets that his company in Italy produces. Because he was flying Easyjet he did not want to incur the additional expense of taking back the samples he had left so he was looking to offload them for a very good deal. Before I could make my excuses and get back into my car he jumped out, shook my hand and directed me to the boot of his car. Inside he had a number of suit covers each containing a "genuine, made in Italy, leather jacket", each one retailing for around €500 and he would give me all of them if I paid for just one. Notwithstanding the fact that they were awful it was so obviously dodgy that I simply smiled and said I wasn't interested. He shook my hand and left.

I'm sure he had some success later that day and having since read up about the scam it appears that it's a popular one in Canada and the US as well.

Posted by
5381 posts

My dad encountered the leather jacket scam out walking a few hundred metres from his house when someone called out to him from a car supposedly for directions to the M1. In that version the vendor had surplus stock from a trade exhibition or something. Dad has been retired for a long time now but he used to work in the garment trade and he told the man his stuff wasn't even worth £5. Gave him directions but observed him turning into a side street just up the road.

So these days you don't need to travel far for this stuff and nonsense.

Posted by
1626 posts

A couple years ago I was in Paris a couple days in advance of my Brother and his family. So I decided to follow the RS tour at the Cemetery on my iPad. It was really funny, I must have had 5 people ask me where "so and so's grave was". We'd look at my iPad, and figure it out. Clearly I looked like an American tourist, and the people asking me questions we not American. It was kind of funny to be in the know because of RS Paris book.

Posted by
135 posts

A number of years ago we were in NYC and after walking for several hours my feet were hot and sore. We stopped on a bench in Sara D Roosevelt Park so I could change socks and put some baby powder on my feet. My discomfort must have been evident as an elderly Asian gentleman sitting on the other end of the bench reached into a paper bag and proffered a piece of fruit. He didn't speak English and we didn't speak Cantonese so we tried our best to carry on a conversation in sign language. We attracted a small crowd and between all of us we had quite an animated conversation about the best way to deal with sore feet and we got an explanation about longan, the fruit we were eating. To this day, it is one of my most treasured memories of NYC and a reminder that some things (sore feet) transcend culture and language.
I live in a city that has a lot of tourists, especially in the summer and I live in an area very popular with tourists as the cruise ship terminal is about a 10 minute walk from our front door. We walk a lot and see many tourists. If we see people puzzling over a map we often stop to offer directions. Rarely have we been rebuffed but occasionally we get asked who we are and why are we helping them. So if you are in Vancouver and someone approaches you offering assistance with directions don't assume it's a scam. It might be me - and I'm just trying to be helpful and save you from heading off in the wrong direction.

Posted by
11294 posts

JC and Marco: that "leather" salesman really gets around. About 10 years ago, I encountered him in Paris, along the Peripherique, near the Museum of Counterfeits.

Posted by
891 posts

In 1976 I was a young air force wife. We were stationed at Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa. We went to Korea for a visit with another air force couple. Now, I have to explain, I was 26 and blonde. We were in Seoul, which was delightful. The people were sooo friendly. I was approached by a young Korean man in a dark suit. He bowed and explained they were from a small village quite a ways from Seoul. His mother who was elderly and in a very beautiful long traditional Korean dress had never seen anyone with hair the color of mine and she wanted permission to have her picture taken with me to take back to her village.
I told him it would be my honor and Mom and I kinda bowed to each other. Picture was taken and I was told thank you, we all went on our way. We got a block away and hubby and the other couple popped out laughing and laughed for a half an hour. They said do you think they knew that your blonde comes out of a bottle? I told them to shut up, it made the old lady happy. Okay 42 years later and overtime we talk to these friends, they still tease me about it! And the blonde still comes out of a bottle!

On our first trip to Rome hubby and I were walking along looking at a map to go to the Borghese and an Italian man in a suit asked if we needed help. He gave us directions and then suggested a certain hotel that had a rooftop bar to get a drink and said it was the best view for all of Rome. We did both and the view was the best!! He also told us about his brothers restaurant that carried traditional Italian meals,
asked what we liked, I immediately said veal piccata, saltimbocca and carcioffie. He said great gave me a card and asked if we wanted a reservation for that evening. Looked at hubby and we both said yes.
he was there, introduced us to his brother the owner and brother took us on a tour of the underground.
There were caves and graves and ruins. It was so cool, the food was great and we were treated very nicely. If we hadn't talked to this gentleman we would never have had this experience. Sometimes it pays off to at least listen and then decide for yourself.

Posted by
23464 posts

For some, everything that is out of the ordinary is a scam. Have we been scam ?? -- ya, a couple of times. Nothing big. Not bad in nearly 50 years of travel. But we have also had dozen of encounters with locals and sometimes other tourists that were great. The only problems with constantly discussing scams is that new travelers come to be believe that just about everything in Europe is a scam or can be.

Posted by
6788 posts

Person approaches with a ring he just found and wonders if it could be yours...

Here's how you handle this one...

When he shows you the ring, don't flinch: ask to see it. Take it in your hand, examine it carefully for a moment, then smile, put it in your pocket, shout loudly, Yes, it is mine! Thank you sir!!! and walk away briskly.

Posted by
2146 posts

We were approached in Pere Lachaise last October. He was sitting on a bench and we were at an intersection deciding which way to go. He offered to help, which we politely refused. He didn't press the issue.

On that same trip we were ambling down the Champs Elyse. I try to be situationally aware, but was surprised when a survey taker girl rushed forward out of nowhere. She hadn't even gotten to me before I issued a firm "Non!". I immediately did a 360 to look for her accomplices. By then they had disappeared.

I travel frequently for work and love to get out and see the towns that I visit. I have more interaction with American panhandlers than I do with European scammers.

Posted by
1965 posts

Just saw this thread. And it explains a couple things...

March 2015, just finished a massive but wonderful steak au poivre lunch at Bistrot Paul Bert in the 11th, then took the Metro over to the 20th and had a long walk to Pere Lachaise, which was welcome indeed to try and digest that meal.

We got to a point where many lanes were offshooting from a central hub, like spokes on a wheel. My wife said she would wait on a park bench while I went off exploring a bit. I walked a bit and came upon a group of tourists, with a long-white-haired older man moderating in French. I thought I would sidle up and follow them around.

Within 15 seconds he had spotted me and started screaming French oaths at me, and gestured for me to get out of his sight. I didn't want to cause a kerfuffle so I departed and found my way around myself from there, always avoiding that group.

I guess the licensed guides are oh, so territorial!

Posted by
14580 posts

Re: the gold ring scam. That happened a few years ago when I was waiting for the light to change just across from the D'Orsay Museum, this kid shows me the gold ring. It looked very shiny, so I gave hime proverbial Gallic shrug with the "well, what do you want to do with it?" He left, I could tell he was pissed.

Admittedly, I fell for a scam once after 24 trips in 47 years, that one time, ie on my first trip over in 1971, actually within the first full week. . This was at the Malmö/Sweden train station, where this young English guy in a suit seeing me sitting on the bench solo with the luggage comes up and gives me this fairy tale about his need for some money. I have to say he was persistent since I didn't turn over any money to him right way. This went back and forth, back and forth because I was willing to "help," then I backed off, repeat cycle. I don't even recall exactly how much I gave him, maybe 10 GBP ? ( a lot in 1971). I still had 11.5 more weeks to go on this trip with 7 weeks to be spent traveling in Germany.

When I got back to Calif in Sept, after this 12 week trip, I had totally forgotten this event in Malmö, where I voluntarily gave money to a scammer. The guy certainly worked for it, as he kept on trying to wear down my resistance to giving him anything. His persistence paid off.