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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 and "Petition" Scammers--can be annoying.
One of the best-known Parisian cons is the . 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:
"Is this your ring?"
"No. Did you find it? This is your lucky day!"
"You can have it for fifty euro."
"Oh, no. You keep it.
[Scammer looks perplexed, obviously thinking that she's encountered a tourist who doesn't know how the scam is supposed to work.]
"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 below.)
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.
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.)
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