Skip to main content

Chinese tourists targeted in Paris pickpocketing spate

By Simon Busch, CNN
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Wed August 7, 2013
Chinese tourists in Paris are perceived as tempting targets because they often carry lots of cash.
Chinese tourists in Paris are perceived as tempting targets because they often carry lots of cash.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Petty crime against Chinese jumps 22% in Paris
  • Chinese seen as big spenders who prefer cash over cards
  • 200 more police on capital's streets
  • Don't wear shorts, says anti-pickpocketing guide

(CNN) -- It's known as the City of Light, but it risks becoming known as the city of the light-fingered.

Paris, the most visited city in the world by many counts, has been suffering a spate of pickpocketing -- and one of its main targets appears to be that relatively new group of tourists, the Chinese.

Petty crimes against Chinese nationals have jumped 22% in the city this year, according to Paris police.

Chinese visitors are thought to be particularly tempting because of a cultural preference for carrying cash over credit cards, the South China Morning Post reported.

They could also often be distracted more easily than some more experienced tourists.

Chinese travelers the world's biggest spenders

Twitter warnings

Outraged visitors to Paris -- as well as Parisians themselves -- have posted warnings against the pickpocketing epidemic on Twitter.

"The annual August exodus from Paris has begun, the 7th arrondissement is deserted, only beggars, pickpockets ... and tourists [remain]," reads one post.

Another tweet warns, in French, of the latest pickpocketing technique: a thief pretends to be disabled and asks for your seat on the metro, only to relieve you of your possessions as you clumsily swap places.

A further post succinctly sums up the pickpockets' recent nationality bias: "Chinese tourists hate credit cards; French pickpockets love their cash."

Chinese tourism: The good, the bad and the backlash

Cash preference

Tourists from China not only often trust cash over cards but also, along with Russians, are among the biggest spenders in Paris -- and they often spend indiscreetly.

"I, and many people I know, have often been approached by the Asian tourists thronging outside the Louis Vuitton store on the Champs-Elysées, who approach you with cash to buy bags for them, as the store limits each customer to two," Paul Roll, director of the Office du Tourisme de Paris, told the Telegraph.

Parisian businesses are worried the risk of theft might drive Chinese travelers elsewhere.

The number of visitors from China to Paris last year, 1.4 million, was 23% up from 2011, the SCMP reports.

The city is a favorite destination among wealthy Chinese.

But a group of luxury retailers, including Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermes, recently warned that top spenders would visit London or Milan instead, if Paris came to seem too risky.

Paris tries to befriend tourists... by stereotyping them

Extra police

French officials have acknowledged the pickpocketing surge, putting 200 extra police on patrol around top tourist attractions and publishing a "Guide to Staying Safe in Paris" in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Spanish -- one of several such guides acknowledging the extent of the problem.

The Paris police advice goes little beyond the need to be vigilant, but it does warn against carrying a backpack -- which can easily be pilfered because it's usually out of direct view.

It also says some thieves in Paris are impersonating police and asking for ID and proof that tourists are carrying money, which they then try to snatch.

Perhaps the most widely noted pickpocketing technique is for thieves to approach marks at cash registers, asking if they can help with a "petition."

As they loiter, they note the customers' PINs, then follow them and pickpocket their cards to withdraw money themselves later.

Copy your passport

The U.S. embassy in Paris also publishes an anti-pickpocketing guide.

"Make a copy of your passport, and front and back of everything that you have in your wallet," is some of its less obvious advice.

"Ladies," it says, "only carry purses that zip."

The guide also warns against another pickpocketing technique -- the metro "crush and grab," whereby a bunch of fellow "passengers" jostle you and pick your pocket as you get on or off a train.

Spilling water or ice cream on a potential victim is yet another method. Profusely apologizing, one of a pickpocketing pair will vigorously dust you down after the fake accident, while a collaborator steals your wallet or camera.

Don't wear shorts

So recognized is the Paris pickpocketing problem, that even TripAdvisor has a dedicated page of advice. It recommends the BeSafe smartphone app, created by a pair of French students, which collates data from police reports to display the most crime-prone areas in Paris in real time.

It also suggests how not to look like an obvious tourist.

Use the small "Paris Pratique" guide, it says, favored by French visitors to the city, rather than a large foldout map.

And, finally, don't wear shorts: Parisians consider them only vacation attire.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:26 PM EST, Sun November 16, 2014
Take a trip to the Chinese town that has more relics than people.
updated 12:42 PM EST, Thu November 13, 2014
You know about reggae and Usain Bolt -- but you probably aren't aware of these other Jamaican superlatives.
updated 6:52 AM EST, Fri November 14, 2014
Artist creates brilliant tribute to Dutch impressionist painter -- a cycle route that glows in the dark
updated 1:33 AM EST, Fri November 14, 2014
European airlines beware: These 320kph trains are upping the travel game with roomy seats and onboard wi-fi.
updated 3:19 AM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
For such a relatively small collection of islands, the UK packs in an phenomenal range of beautiful scenery.
updated 5:37 PM EST, Wed November 12, 2014
Animals run behind the Rovos Rail train's observation balcony in Africa.
Rovos Rail's epic trips out of South Africa pamper passengers with fine dining, vintage comfort and even a bathtub.
updated 8:37 PM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
Nasir al-mulk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran
Self-taught Iranian photographer gains rare access to shoot religious buildings as they've never been seen.
updated 10:45 PM EST, Mon November 10, 2014
The subject of erotica has a way of making people uncomfortable.
updated 7:37 PM EST, Thu November 6, 2014
A
UK's Heathrow Airport pairs destinations with fragrances to evoke long distance travel. We do too.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Thu November 6, 2014
Bumper cars, a freefall simulator and robot bartenders are just a few of the cool features on Royal Caribbean's new Quantum of the Seas.
updated 5:58 PM EST, Sun November 2, 2014
Up in the mountains and across deep chasms, these bridges are both spectacular and terrifying.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT