Scams, Pickpocket and Security in Paris

Atmospheres in this tip:

It might seem like the aim of this article is to scare you, but it's really not. It is simply a reminder that, along with your fresh cheese and fine wine, you should throw in some caution during your visit to Paris. the City of Lights did not become one of the most visited places in the world without any drawbacks and, victim of its fame, Paris has also become one of the top ten pickpocketing cities. The Paris police report that, between 20,000 and 30,000 people each year report falling victim to pickpocket scams in Paris, with nearly half of these numbers occurring on Paris trains and the Metro. Fortunately, these numbers are decreasing, but in order to avoid the dreadful sight of a missing wallet or phone, there are a few tips that you should follow.

Remember that losing your money and belongings is not the end of the world. The most important thing is that you are safe and unharmed.

First of all, many of the thefts occur on the Metro between 4 and 6 pm when it is rush hour, so if you can avoid public transport during this time lapse, you should do so. Secondly, familiarise yourself with the different pickpocketing techniques. Thieves often use the same tricks in order to distract you from looking after your belongings or strike when you’re the least able to respond. For example, they will hit if they see that you aren’t fully awake (early in the morning or late in the night). Do not be fooled by the apparent innocence of children, it is not a coincidence that more than 40 percent of the pickpockets arrested in Paris are minors; their favorite move consists of waiting until the doors are about to close to steal your bag or phone and hop onto the platform, leaving you watching them helplessly from inside the moving train. To stay up-to-date, you should consider following the Prefecture de Police on Twitter, as they post alerts on the most troublesome areas or particular scams making the rounds.

Without falling into a state of paranoia and ruining your trip, common sense is your best ally: be aware and observant of the people near you and, if in doubt, simply put distance between you and the other person. Plan your route before leaving the hotel, selecting the most direct route in order to limit the amount of travel/train time. Try to avoid changing trains in larger stations such as Gare du Nord, Gare Montparnasse or Chatelet Les Halles, it's easy to get lost in these large stations.

Equipment-wise, think about wearing anti-theft objects, like a slash-resistant bag, a money belt or a padlocked backpack. Although these can greatly enhance the protection of your belongings, you should always remember to carry your things in front of you, especially when in a full train. It's also a space-saving move in busy carriages!

No one wants to take the pessimistic route, but we can’t control whether or not we’re robbed. What we can control is how prepared we are in advance. So, with this in mind, consider doing the following before your trip:

  • Make a photocopy of every single item you carry in your wallet or purse. This way, you have a visual image to show police or authorities when going through the replacement process.
  • Keep a list of every card and ID you have with the account number, emergency contact number, and customer service number,
  • Have a backup plan if your phone is stolen and secure it so that you can remotely wipe it. Backing up important phone numbers somewhere at home and installing an app to remotely control your phone are fairly easy things to do,

Finally, do not carry things you don’t need. Keep the minimum and leave the rest in a safe at your hotel or in your suitcase.