Bracelet string scam

Paris-bracelet-string-scamThis scam is usually played on the steps of the Sacre Coeur Basilica, where men of African origin approach mostly (groups of) female tourists and hold out their hand as if they want to introduce themselves and shake your hand. But as soon as you reach out your hand as well, they quickly grab it and unsolicitedly put a loop of strings around your arm and start weaving it into a kind of bracelet. They explain it is an African tradition, bringing luck to the recipient. Meanwhile, they keep asking questions or talking about Africa, and calling out the famous Lion King’s “Hakuna Matata” punchline, just to distract you, so they can finish their bracelet before you can react. They can be very persistent, even if the tourist refuses and tries to pull her arm away.


Bracelet-string-scam-ParisAs soon as the bracelet is finished, they tell the tourist to pay for it. Some ask for ten Euro’s, some even more, up to as much as thirty Euro’s, which of course is a ridiculously high price for a few strings worth no more than a cent and two minutes of labor. But if the tourist refuses, they can become very intimidating, especially when all of a sudden a group of six of them are surrounding the tourist, demanding payment. Some tourists have even reported physically aggressive behavior, but since the Parisian police have started to strike down hard on the harassment of tourists, they appear to behave a bit more restrained. Still, it can be annoying if someone uninvitedly starts weaving a bracelet around your arm and begging for a tip, while all you wanted to do was enjoy the spectacular view of Paris from the top of the Montmartre hill.

You can avoid this scam by not taking the stairs or the funicular, but instead walking up Montmartre hill through the streets at the side and back of the basilica. You’ll find some interesting art displays on the way up as well.

Find experiences from real victims or post your own story in our Paris and France Tourist Scams Forum.

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