Scam in Paris - ideas?

I have just returned from a weekend in Paris, which was lovely, but we had a couple of encounters today that I’m curious about. Wondering if anyone here knows about this.

Walking past the Eiffel Tower, my wife and I were approached twice by people, we later found out were Romanian Gypsies.

First time, they asked my wife if she spoke English and then showed her a sheet of paper on a clipboard and mentioned “The Deaf Society”, presuming she was soliciting for donations we brushed her off*.

Only two minutes later while waiting fora tour bus, a more aggressive lady, literally thrust a pen into my hand and said “sign this”, very briefly looking at it, it seemed an identical sheet, and had one entry on it, where someone had completed their nationality, signed it, and one other box, which I didn’t catch, but certainly wasn’t a credit card number.

Now, I only got a very brief look, as the conductor for the tour bus chased this woman off, (quite aggressively too) and told us they were gypsies and that they were only after our wallets. We didn’t have time to discuss it with him, so I’m not real clear on how the gypsies planned to separate us from out money. Perhaps
A - hit us up for a donation, ostensibly for the charity,
B - While distracted, aim for a little pickpocketing, (I noticed a few signs around tourist areas “Beware of pickpockets”)
C - something else?

    • We hate ‘charity muggers’ on the street, and at home we never support charities through that avenue.

I’m guessing B, if your signing something your hands are busy and your attention is diverted.

In Jerusalam several years ago, a vendor tried to agressively show me his postcard selection, while his hand underneath the rack of cards went for my back pocket. Fortunately, I tend to carry my wallet in the front pocket when I travel, so all he got was a but of kleenex full of snot (had a cold the whole *%^&#^&^ trip). But it would have been hard to notice if a friend hadn’t seen it. No time to find a cop, we were boarding the bus, but yeah, distraction is the pickpockets best friend.

Pickpockets is correct.

A common scam, especially in major tourist areas. Also beware of a guy who “finds” a “gold” ring on the ground, asking if it’s yours.

Some dude tried that on me on Blvd. Hausmann near Lafitte two years ago. Had been warned, brushoff and keep walking in Manhattan Mode (useful all over the world).

So many people I spoke with there felt the need to warn me *specifically *about how “it’s mostly the Romanians” (most often ***not ***adding “gypsies”). Dunno if they are just conflating the Roma and the Romanians as a whole but for sure Romania’s image is taking it in the shorts.

Happened to me near the Tuilleries. I hadn’t heard of the scam, but when he held the ring up to me, I said, “Not mine,” and walked away.

When my wife and I were in Paris a few years ago we were constantly approached asking “Do you speak English?” so I just started saying “Nein!” I figured the German tourists were the ones nobody wanted to deal with.

Yes, it’s a universal attempt at distracting you so someone else can pickpocket you, nothing to do with any ostensible good cause.

I’d imagine it happens in any big city with a lot of tourists, particularly those where they might be undergoing a bit of sensory overload from being in a strange environment. A bunch of kids tried it on with me in Rome once. Brushing them off or walking away is the only way to deal with it. Or you could learn the local language equivalent of “Piss off or I’ll call the police.”

And of course, take all the usual anti-pickpocketing precautions - keep easily detachable valuables like cameras and wallets either out of sight or where you will notice someone’s hand a-wandering, don’t leave your bag pockets open, that sort of thing.

I was scammed like this in Victoria station, London a few years ago. Sitting at a small outdoor café table with a friend; two older ladies approached, one distracted my friend while the other stuck a piece of printed paper under my nose asking for a translation (in very broken English); with the other hand she stole my phone off the table.

Man did I feel like a dummy once I figured out what had happened.

They’re not confused, the social situation for the Romanian Roma is apparently pretty dire, and ever since Romania joined the EU their Roma has taken the opportunity to go to other member countries to try and find work, unfortunately this “work” usually end up being begging on the streets(and I suppose other less than legal activities, but it’s the begging I usually hear about).