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When searching “scams to look out for in Paris” or “common scams in Paris,” I’m surprised to find that the scam I personally experienced last summer is not featured on any other blogger’s list. I scrolled through multiple pages and read copycat articles listing the same ten scams, such as the “gold ring scam” or “friendship bracelet scam”, but the one I witnessed was never included. This post will be short and sweet and is just my attempt to warn tourists in Paris about another way to protect themselves – and their cash.
At the time, the only way I was able to find this scam listed online was by specifically searching “Kick Cup Scam in Paris,” which will bring up a TripAdvisor forum post from four years ago and a Rick Steves forum post from five years ago. I noticed that recently a wikiHow article has been added in 2023 and they’re calling it the “Clear Cup Scam in Paris.”
What is the Clear Cup Scam in Paris, France?
While walking the streets of Paris, especially in highly touristed areas like the Louvre, you may suddenly feel an impact against your shoe. Odd; you thought you were looking where you were going, and you didn’t see anything in the way a moment ago! When you look down to see what you’ve kicked, you discover a cup full of change has spilled across the street and a homeless person sitting nearby has a look of horror on their face as they watch the day’s coin collection fly in every direction. You have never felt more guilty in your life. Full of shame, you bend down to help them collect all the coins and compile them back into the cup, and decide to throw in a few extra Euros on top as an apology.
In actuality, your first thought was correct – the cup wasn’t there a moment ago, and you were watching where you were going. The beggar clocked that you were a tourist and in the blink of an eye, targeted you by placing the cup directly in front of your foot so that you would kick it.
When this happened to me near the Tuileries, it felt suspicious and I also didn’t have any loose change on me, so I helped collect the coins to put back into the cup and uttered a profuse “désolée”, but I didn’t add more change to the cup. Later that same day near the Louvre, I saw two tourists frantically bending down in a crowded area to collect the coins they had just kicked over from a different scammer. I heard them saying they hadn’t even noticed the cup before, and I told them the exact same thing happened to me only an hour before. Seeing it happen to someone else, and then finding the forum posts about it online, confirmed my suspicions and I’m glad I didn’t donate any money.
How to Protect Yourself from Scams in Paris
In retrospect, even though I hadn’t donated any coins, the scam could have still worked if someone tried to pickpocket me while I was kneeling down picking money off the ground. Luckily I didn’t carry anything in my clothes pockets or my backpack’s outer pockets while I was in Paris, so someone would have to be pretty talented to swipe anything without me noticing. A common sense tip is not to carry valuables, or to keep them close to your body or at the bottom of your bag in discreet and inaccessible pockets.
If a pushy vendor or “activist” is trying to get your attention and have you sign a petition or admire their wares, don’t feel bad about firmly saying “no” or better yet, ignoring them completely. Smiling or politely nodding is just giving them an “in”. As tourists we enjoy the idea of interacting with local people, but an authentic conversation with a Parisian isn’t going to involve being accosted. Aren’t they supposed to be aloof?
It’s easy to advise tourists to stay away from the most crowded areas of Paris to prevent falling prey to a scammer, but this is not realistic. Of course you want to see the Eiffel Tower or the Mona Lisa if it’s your first trip to Paris! This was my third trip to Paris and I still liked seeing some of the iconic destinations again.
Just be cognizant of your surroundings and try not to look like the most clueless tourist of the bunch. If you can avoid being distracted and looking down at your map or phone, you aren’t flaunting your foreign accent, and you aren’t wearing a shirt with an American flag on it, you can avoid being an obvious target. I am guessing I looked like a good mark that day at the Tuileries because I was carrying a chocolat chaud from Angelina, wearing a backpack (which I also wear at home because I’m a hiker; I never carry a purse and could literally go on an impromptu hike at any moment), and was not looking particularly stylish since I only packed a couple lightweight multi-purpose outfits for a long Eurotrip.
Aside from these tips to avoid scammers in Paris, there is not much else you can do when it comes to the clear cup trick. You will not see it coming, so it’s not like you can avoid kicking the cup. Now that you’re aware the trick exists, though, you don’t have to feel guilty if you give someone the cold shoulder and withhold a pity donation after kicking their coin cup. Be reassured that you are not a heartless villain!
Have you been the target of any tourist scams in Paris, or perhaps other highly touristed cities such as Rome or Mumbai? Have you mainly witnessed the typical scams that tourists are often warned about, or did your scammer get creative? Help a fellow traveler and share your wisdom!
✈️ Visiting France from abroad? Don’t miss a beat – use an Airalo eSIM for affordable international cell data so you can use your maps and apps, and don’t forget to protect your investment with travel insurance.
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