Paris Gold Ring Scam
ABOVE: "Is this your ring?" (Cheryl
took this photo while being accosted by a ring scammer.)
Paris is safer than many
large cities, and you're unlikely to get murdered or mugged while riding the
Métro or rubbernecking at the Moulin Rouge. However, the city is famous (or
perhaps infamous) for its pickpockets, and scam artists--such as the
String Men of Sacré-Coeur or
practitioners of the "Petition" Scam--can be a
One of the best-known Parisian cons is the
Gold Ring Scam. Here's how it works:
The con artist pretends to find a gold ring on the sidewalk,
shows it to a tourist, and asks "Is this your ring?"
When the tourist says "No,"
the scammer offers to sell it.
If the tourist falls for the scam, the con
artist negotiates a price.
The tourist ends up with a gold-colored ring made of
cheap metal, and the con artist walks away with the gullible tourist's cash.
While walking near the Eiffel Tower on a Saturday,
we were accosted by three separate "Gold Ring" scammers within an hour. Cheryl
had fended off a ring scammer in the 9th arrondissement earlier in the week, so
she was prepared:
Scammer: "Is this your
Cheryl: "No. Did you find
it? This is your lucky day!"
Scammer: "You can have it
for fifty euro."
Cheryl: "Oh, no. You
[Scammer looks perplexed, obviously thinking that she's
encountered a tourist who doesn't know how the scam is supposed to work.]
Scammer: "Twenty euro?"
Cheryl: "No, it's yours.
You're so lucky that you found it!"
Most of the ring scammers don't even try very hard. In each
case, we could see the con artist holding the ring in her or her palm while
pretending to pick it up from the sidewalk.
Some tourists actually fall for the scam. We met an American
woman who admitted that she'd paid €10 for a "gold ring," and we saw a man
taking money from his wallet and giving it to a ring scammer. (See photos
Ring scamming is an equal-opportunity occupation: Of the
four ring scammers who accosted us in Paris recently, two were Roma women (what
used to be called "Gypsies"), one was a middle-aged black man, and
one was a young white man.
Update: Since publishing
this article, we've had reports of the same scam in other cities (among
them, Rome and London). So, no matter where you are, just remember: All that
glitters is not gold, especially if it looks like it was stolen from the
Curtain Rod Accessories department of Drapes R Us.
To view scammers in action, see the captioned photos below:
More photos of a Paris "gold ring" scammer:
In this photo, a ring scammer (blue sweatshirt) talks to a
couple on a walking path above the Seine. The child is her son or apprentice.
After failing to con the couple or us (see dialogue above),
the con artist goes down a staircase to look for better pickings along the quay.
Within a couple of minutes, she's found two victims. (The
man in the center is taking money from his wallet.)