Paris expat warns tourists of ‘seemingly innocent’ pickpocket tactic

CCTV catches pickpockets hugging their victims in the street

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Amanda Rollins is an American expat who has been living in Paris for five years, from where she shares frequent social media updates about her experience on her Instagram page @americanfille. For those hoping to visit the “city of love” in the coming months, she has shared a key tip to help tourists outsmart potential pickpockets lurking on the streets.

Paris was named as one of the “pickpocket hotspots” of the world in a study published by last summer, with the Paris Métro and the city’s main train station Gare du Nord named as two of the worst-hit areas.

Similarly, the Eiffel Tower, Sacre-Coeur, Louvre and Notre-Dame de Paris were also listed as notable areas where pickpockets can strike.

While pickpockets are often sly in their tactics, Amanda says there is one major signifier that you could be under surveillance from a group of thieves.

In a video, she said: “If you ever visit Paris or come to Paris, please listen to this video. In Paris when they are trying to rob you, what they will do, is one guy, two guys, sometimes a couple of guys, will approach you in a seemingly innocent way and ask you for a cigarette, ask you for a lighter, as you for directions.

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A post shared by Parisaholicgram (@parisaholicgram)

“I’ve seen it where they pretend to be drunk and they come up to you and they’re all silly and they want to dance with you. And you think ‘oh my god look at these drunk idiots’ and it catches you off guard and it seems innocent. I’ve also had it happen to me where they pretend to be drunk and they bump into me.”

While the move might not seem too dangerous at first, Amanda explained: “What they are doing in this time is they are trying to get close enough to touch you to see where your items are. Where your phone is. Where your wallet is.

“If a person on the street or anywhere in Paris approaches you and touched you in any way, even if it is a slap on the shoulder, run immediately. Get out of there immediately.”

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Amanda’s video was re-shared by the Instagram account @parisaholicgram, which asked its followers: “How safe is Paris in your opinion?” Many commenters shared their experience in Paris, including those who had crossed paths with thieves in the French capital.

One commenter said: “Paris is one of the most overrated cities I have been to. I felt totally unsafe and my body unconsciously went into alert mode.”

Another commenter named Nathalia said: “The pickpocket capital of Europe. Just have to live here long enough. There’s no day that goes by without a pickpocket warning on the metro for example.”

However, other commenters felt that Paris was completely safe, even with the risk of theft. An Instagram user named Jessy said: “I’m French and Parisian (born and raised in Paris) and the way you describe it way too much exaggerated. Yes, there are pickpockets but it’s not like you have to struggle to walk safely.” [SIC]

How to stay safe from pickpockets while abroad

One of the best ways to remain safe from pickpockets is to take extra precautions and to always be aware of your surroundings. On its France safety and security page, Gov UK states: “Take sensible precautions against street and car crime. Don’t keep your passport, credit cards and other valuables in the same place; use the inside compartments in bags where possible. Carry your bag across your body rather than on your shoulder.

Pickpockets can work in gangs: one to distract you while the other one goes into your bag. Keep your belongings close to you in restaurants and bars. Don’t be distracted around tourist attractions and cash points.

“Thieves and pickpockets operate on the Paris underground, RER lines and at mainline stations, for example, Gare du Nord.

“There have been several victims of serious assault on the RER line B, which serves Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports and Paris Gare du Nord Eurostar terminus. There have also been serious assaults on RER line D, which serves the Stade de France.

“Alcohol and drugs can lead to you being less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment. If you’re going to drink, know your limit and take sensible precautions such as not becoming separated from friends.”

The UK Government also encourages tourists to always take our valid travel insurance, which includes protection for personal possessions and luggage.

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