x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Meeting in Paris? Better dress down

The Life: For some Paris is the City of Light but for business travellers the French capital has become a place where you had better have good insurance to guard against robbery and street crime.

Visitors have been warned to be vigilant in Paris. Simon Dawson / Bloomberg News
Visitors have been warned to be vigilant in Paris. Simon Dawson / Bloomberg News

For some Paris is the City of Light, but for business travellers the French capital has become the city where you had better have good insurance to guard against robbery and street crime.

It has long been the case that you have to watch your wallet or handbag when visiting the better-known tourist spots of Paris, but since the onset of the great recession, levels of street crime have soared to previously unimaginable heights.

Chinese authorities recently issued a warning to travellers that claimed street crime in Paris was up 50 per cent year on year.

And French police have gone so far as to warn foreign travellers, particularly those on business trips, against using certain cashpoint machines, especially those belonging to foreign banks.

One police officer I spoke to even warned against "wearing smart suits" in certain areas of the city to avoid being singled out.

One common scam is perpetrated by groups of street children, often as young as eight years old. They hang around non-French banks with cashpoint machines outside the lobby and wait for a sharp-suited corporate type to approach. According to Parisian police, Barclays is a particular favourite.

As the business person uses the ATM, a child approaches holding a sheet of newspaper, which he rustles and flaps about ostentatiously. This is apparently to distract the traveller while he types in his PIN.

Subsequently, various other children arrive who use lesser or greater threats of violence to extract whatever cash you might be trying to retrieve from the machine, depending on how compliant you are.

And ATMs are not the only hot spot for foreign business travellers to be targeted. French police also cautioned that smartly dressed individuals wheeling suitcases near big financial institutions had also been hit by gangs.

So if you are planning a business trip to Paris any time soon, dress down, wear a backpack and keep an eye out for little boys who fit the police description of "enfants du type Romains".

 

jdoran@thenational.ae