Unmasking Clear Cup Scam Paris: Beware !! Don’t Fall Victim

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  • Post published:December 21, 2023
  • Post category:Reviews

Paris is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, attracting over 30 million visitors per year. While the vast majority of tourists have a safe and enjoyable time, visitors do need to be aware of some common scams that target tourists. One such scam that has been gaining more attention recently is the “clear cup” or “kick cup” scam.

What Exactly is the Clear Cup Scam?

The clear cup scam typically involves a person, often appearing homeless or destitute, placing an empty clear plastic cup on the ground in the middle of a busy sidewalk or popular tourist area. The cup will contain a few coins or small denomination euro notes. The scammer then sits or lays nearby.

As unsuspecting tourists walk down the sidewalk, they will inevitably kick or trip over the clear cup, spilling the contents everywhere. The scammer will then pressure the tourist to help pick up the spilled coins and bills, and guilt or intimidate them into “replacing” the money they caused them to lose.

It is essentially a way to manipulate kind-hearted tourists into giving them money out of sympathy or guilt. While not overtly threatening, it can be an uncomfortable and upsetting experience.

Why Tourists Fall For This Type of Scam

There are a few psychological reasons why the clear cup scam tends to work on tourists:

1. Distraction – Tourists are often distracted taking in the sights and surroundings of an unfamiliar place like Paris. They fail to notice obstacles in their path like a clear cup.

2. Guilt/Sympathy – When the coins spill everywhere, most people feel embarrassed or guilty, even if it was unintentional. This plays on people’s tendency to want to right their “wrongs”.

3. Difficulty Saying No – Tourists are also generally more polite and non-confrontational when traveling. This makes it hard for them to firmly tell the scammer “no” when pressured for money.

4. Assumption of Authenticity – Tourists tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, assuming a shabbily dressed person must genuinely be homeless or in need. They don’t consider it could be part of a scam.

These factors together make tourists the perfect targets for the increasingly common clear cup scam.

Where Does The Clear Cup Scam Happen in Paris?

While it can happen anywhere with a high volume of pedestrian tourists, some hotspots in Paris for the clear cup scam include:

  • Near major attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral
  • Along the popular walking areas near the Seine River
  • Outside train stations like Gare du Nord and Gare de L’Est
  • Near metro stations where tourists arrive like Châtelet and Opera
  • On bridges crossing the Seine frequented by tourists
  • In parks like Jardin du Luxembourg or Parc des Buttes Chaumont
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Essentially, anywhere very touristy with ample foot traffic poses a risk. Tourists should keep their wits about them in crowded areas in particular. Solo travelers and families may be perceived as easier targets.

Why Pickpocketing Also Occurs During This Scam

While the clear cup scam itself aims to directly get money from a tourist in a seemingly urgent situation, scammers may also take advantage to pickpocket distracted tourists at the same time.

When the unsuspecting tourist stops to help the scammer pick up the spilled coins and money, the scammer has close physical access to pat down clothing looking for wallets, take bags or purses, or otherwise steal valuables in the ensuing confusion. This is why tourists should try to avoid engaging with the scammer altogether.

Some pickpocketing scams also involve the clear cup, where if a second scammer observes the cup get kicked over from a distance, they will rush over and “help” collect the money in an attempt to steal other valuables off the tourist who feels obligated to assist.

How To Avoid Becoming a Victim of The Clear Cup Scam

While no tourist wants to feel like a cold-hearted, uncaring jerk when seemingly confronted by someone down on their luck, engaging with the clear cup scam can quickly escalate into a messy situation.

Here are some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim while still being kind and considerate:

  • Keep eyes ahead on crowded sidewalks scanning for obstacles
  • Don’t engage if a seemingly accidental spill occurs – avoid eye contact and keep walking
  • If coins spill, offer a simple “sorry!” without stopping as you continue on
  • Keep valuables secured in zipped internal pockets of bags or hidden money belts
  • Only give money directly to reputable charity organizations, not individuals
  • Trust your intuition – if someone is aggressively demanding compensation, extricate yourself

The most important takeaway is not to allow yourself to feel flustered or intimidated in the spur of the moment. A firm but polite disengagement can go a long way to prevent becoming ensnared in this type of scam.

Are The Paris Police Addressing This Type of Scam?

According to many recent traveler reports, this type of small-scale scam is on the rise in Paris. And the police are taking notice and starting to crack down in popular tourist zones.

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Under French law, while begging is legal, the authorities can still act when it threatens public order or safety. As the clear cup ploy continues to negatively impact the visitor experience, police response is ramping up.

Increased police patrols are removing scammers once spotted and issuing citations or even detention for repeat offenders. There is also a push to have plain clothes police walking tourist areas in an effort to catch this activity as it occurs.

So while authorities recognize this scam’s rise, tourists should still employ personal awareness and safety precautions as the most direct defense against becoming a victim. Don’t expect an officer’s help to always be immediate on crowded streets.

Are There Other Versions of The Clear Cup Scam?

While Paris seems to have gained the most notoriety for the clear cup kicked over on sidewalks trick, variations on this scam occur in tourist destinations across Europe.

Some other incarnations include:

  • A scammer places an empty cup down then intentionally kicks it over themselves before targeting tourists for money
  • Coins are hidden under bits of paper, cardboard, or other debris which the scammer can easily kick to reveal money
  • An item like a cheap piece of art or jewelry is placed on the ground which gets “damaged” when kicked

So visitors to European capitals like Rome, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and more should be wary of ground-level items that can entrap good samaritans. A dropped phone, spilled bag of souvenirs, colorful drawings – they could all potentially end with hands in your pockets if you stop to help.

Reviews of Clear Cup Scam Encounters in Paris

To give a better sense of how this scam commonly plays out, here are some first-hand experiences recounted by tourists:

Sarah M. from Canada shares:

“My mother and I were walking along the Seine after seeing Notre Dame when I suddenly stumbled and heard a crash. I was mortified to see I had kicked over a clear plastic cup full of coins belonging to man sitting near a bridge pillar. As we helped him pick them up he became very angry and aggressive demanding 20 euro for the disturbance. We gave him a few coins just to get away but felt so ashamed in the moment.”

James R. from the UK recalls:

“I was waiting in line for the Catacombs when a scraggly kid of about 10 years old seemed to trip out of nowhere right in front of me, sending what looked like antique marbles rolling all over. As I bent down to get them two teens rushed over to ‘assist’ me while the kid pleaded for money to replace what looked like a cherished collection. It was obviously a set up in hindsight, but they caught me off guard and I handed over a few notes before coming to my senses and getting out of there.”

Gina T. from Australia says:

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“Outside Sacre Coeur, an older Roma woman sitting against a wall suddenly lurched forward knocking over a Tupperware of change she had sitting way out from her body. Coins went everywhere and several tourists stopped to help gather them up. When I accidentally kicked the Tupperware itself a few feet away, I lightly tossed it back rather than getting too close. She cursed at me as I walked off but it just didn’t feel right.”

Are There Any Other Common Tourist Scams in Paris?

While the clear cup scam should definitely be on any visitor’s radar, Paris has no shortage of petty criminals looking to take advantage of tourists in various ways. Some other popular scams include:

⛔ Gold Ring Scam – A person seemingly finds a gold ring on the ground and offers it to you as a lucky keepsake or to sell. But it ends up being worthless brass.

⛔ Friendship Bracelet Scam – Pushy vendors will forcibly tie a “free” bracelet on your wrist then demand 10-20 euro payment.

⛔ Petition Signing Scam – Clipboard scammers will have you sign a petition then demand cash donations for the cause.

⛔ Broken Necklace Scam – A woman or confederate purposefully break a necklace near you then pressure you for money to replace the heirloom.

When exploring the City of Light, being generally wary of overly friendly strangers and maintaining physical boundaries with anyone demanding money is key. Also secure belongings in zipped, anti-theft bags to prevent stealth pickpocketing which runs rampant targeting distracted tourists.

Staying vigilant and trusting intuition goes a long way to avoid scams – then visitors can actually relax and enjoy the beauty and culture this iconic destination offers.

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