The Paris Gold Ring Scam
Likely damage: 1/5
Countries reported: Europe.
Summary: A girl drops a fake gold ring in front of a tourist and tries to persuade him to buy it for far more than it is worth.
Some specific scams are so common they deserve specific coverage in a section of their own. One of these is the gold ring scam, which is so common in Paris, and hardly known elsewhere. Each time I have travelled through Paris, I have met a few people who have been scammed in this way, and the Internet has many reports of this trick. In outline, it is extremely simple:
- The victim is strolling in a touristy area of Paris, or sitting in a Parisian café with a glass of wine and a Croque Monsieur. He does not notice the young girl in front of him, in suitably pitiful clothes, and is approached by a young girl.
- The young girl is a scammer. She is walking towards him, and suddenly starts squealing. The victim cannot help but look at her, and make eye contact.
- The scammer bends down and seems to pick something up from the street. She shows it to her victim. It is a gold ring, or at least a gold-coloured ring. “It is my lucky day”, she says in broken English, “look at what I have found. I love gold jewellery. I was hoping to buy something like this, and now I have found one. Is it not beautiful?”
- The scammer looks so happy that the victim cannot help feeling for her. He answers that it is indeed beautiful and that it must indeed be her lucky day.
- Now comes the scam. Her face falls. “Ah, unfortunately, I may need to sell it. I have not eaten in the last day, and I need to buy some bread. How much would you say it is worth?” she asks. She hands it to the victim.
- The victim is not an expert jeweller, but just wants to say something to keep her happy and hopefully get rid of her. He tells her that it is worth €10 (£8/$1210), and then hands it back to her. Then she hands it back to him, saying that she should actually pass her luck on to him, to make it his lucky day. Wouldn’t he like to help her eat? He said it was worth €10. Would he begrudge somebody who is starving the chance to sell her last valuable possession and buy some bread? She will go on like this for a long time, until the victim’s resistance is worn down.
- Her objective may be to make him feel bad and buy the ring, which is in fact completely worthless. Or she may hope that the victim will get bored with arguing over the matter, and pay her €10 just to get rid of her.
This scam, therefore, combines misrepresentation of the value of a piece of jewellery with aggressive begging to get some money from a traveller. It can be the cover for something more sinister if the scammer has an accomplice. While she is talking to the victim, and distracting his attention, her accomplice can steal from him, if he has a wallet in his pocket or a handbag, or if he is are sitting at a table with a camera on it.
A variation on this scam has been reported from some countries in Europe, including France and Italy:
- The victim is in one of the main squares of a large European city.
- A scammer approaches him and ties a friendship bracelet on the victim’s wrist.
- The scammer demands some money, say €20 (£17/$22), from the victim.
- If the victim does not want to pay up, the scammer asks for his bracelet back. Unfortunately, the bracelet is tied too tightly around the victim’s wrist for him to be able to return it.
- The victim may, therefore, feel guilty enough to give the scammer his €20, or may become annoyed and rip it off, in which case the scammer will claim some “compensation”.
- The victim can simply say “no” repeatedly and walk off with the bracelet, but these scammers can be very persistent.
Sometimes the scammer will tie a string around the victim’s wrist to make a friendship bracelet, but leave a piece of string connected to the bracelet in his hand, so that the victim is in effect tied to him. This can feel very threatening, particularly if the scammer is a large man and the victim is a small woman. Most men who scam in this way are not violent, and are unlikely to assault their victims, though it is always possible that any victim can be unlucky. However, many have complained that the police are unlikely to be able to do much. The scammers are persistent and play on the victim’s desire to avoid confrontation and his or her fear of being rude.
There are, however, a number of ways in which you can avoid becoming a victim once you realise what is going on:
– You can pretend not to speak English when you are approached, answering any queries in a foreign language or in a made-up language of your own.
– You can also simply tell the scammer “No”, repeatedly, and hopefully they will choose another target.
– You can pick a low value for the ring or bracelet, say ten cents, and hope that the scammer will decide that it is not worth continuing the conversation. They may, however, simply try to convince you to raise your estimate (though in practice, your much lower estimate will probably be much closer to its real value than theirs).
– You can simply refuse to hand over any money when you are asked. And you can say that you have no need for a gold ring of the kind offered.