Monday, November 28, 2011

Scammed... Sort of...

So if someone in a tourist area of Paris claims to find a nice-looking ring at your feet then hands it to you, beware. Apparently, this is a well-known scheme where the "donor" is looking for money.

While visiting the city on Friday, a scraggly-looking man showed us a men's gold band which he "found" at our feet as we were walking near the Arc de Triomphe. He showed it to me and pointed out the carving on the inside that said it was gold. He then placed it on my finger, while telling me in his broken French that I had brought him good luck and that I should keep it. He said he was from Bosnia and asked where I was from. I told him Canada. He kissed my hand as well as the hands of the man and woman I was traveling with (ick) then kissed my cheek (traditional French thing). (Way more ick.)

As he walked away, I thought, "Was this stolen? Is someone watching? What kind of a setup is this?" Then, he came right back and said that since he'd given me something of value, might I spare some change for a sandwich for him? All of a sudden, my French got much worse as you might say, and I made like I didn't understand him. I told him to take the ring and just sell it for money if he needed it. "No, no, the ring is for you," insisted.

Then we noticed some men in fatigues and I think he did too, thankfully. I passed him the ring and told him I would not give him money. When he was just out of earshot I told the others this was clearly a scam, they agreed and we wondered was the ring real? Was he scoping out our hands when he was kissing them? Does he succeed in removing some people's rings when putting on the other one? (He put it on my middle finger and my wedding ring fits snugly.)

I snapped his photo while he was across the street, before we crossed. (It's amazing how people back off from harassing you or someone nearby when they know their mug's on your camera.) Then I told the others, "Let's just run." And we did a jog over to a side street, and then another, just in case we were being watched.

Later, at the Eiffel Tower, another American heard us talking about this and said she'd heard of this ring scam in one of Rick Steves' books... Here's a thread of conversation on this from his website... Apparently, this is an oldie but goodie...

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