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.


  1. We were visiting Sacre-Coeur on New Year’s Day this year and had just come down the funnel. We needed to use the toilette and so lined up about half an hour for that. My 14 year old son went first and then when he had finished, we told him to wait by a nearby tree. As I was coming out with my young daughter, my husband (still lining up for the toilette) told me to go and help our son. I realised to my horror what was happening. A couple of African-looking men were talking to him and one had managed to tie a wristband around one wrists. My poor son was trying to tell them he had no money only his phone. I yelled “no” at them a few times until they relented and cut off a loose strand. Felt bad because I had prepared my daughter for it, but not my son, since I had not expected them to target a teenager. As we left the scene, another of these wristband scam artists tried to approached us, but the mother bear in me growled at him and he gave up.

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