Before the pandemic, Paris drew more than 35 million visitors a year and remains one of the world’s top tourist destinations even though travel curbs and border closures have worked their way through the world.
Unfortunately, it’s also a top draw for scammers and thieves looking to make a quick buck. As Singapore entertainer Kimberly Wang discovered on a recent visit to Europe, which took in Fashion Week in Paris and a maiden attempt at snow skiing.
Actor, TV host, fashion personality and radio presenter with 987 FM, Ms Wang, 31, hadn’t travelled for two years until this trip and has been sharing some recent highlights on her Instagram account.
But while she’s been revelling in the City of Lights, a destination on many bucket lists, she took time to sound a warning to wannabe visitors.
In a series of Instagram Stories, she revealed that she very nearly got victimised by a scammer. She shared her experience, as well as tips for travellers.
“Something super uncomfortable just happened to me in Paris,” Ms Wang began.
On Mar 4, she wrote that she returned to her hotel after a day out in Paris, ending up behind a couple as they waited for a lift. It was the man who struck up a conversation.
Ms Wang seemed to be with at least one other person at that point, as she uses “we” in telling the story, but she does not identify her companion or companions.
She says of the couple that she “offered to let them go first (they alighted from a car right behind mine and walked through the lobby and arrived at the elevator first).”
“They insisted we enter first (very polite and nice) so after like two ‘it’s okays’ I was like yeah sure fine. You have to tap your hotel card at the elevator to access the diff levels so k I tapped mine and asked which level and they said ‘Same’.”
That’s when things started getting fishy.
During the elevator ride, the man began asking where Wang was from, saying that they were going to be travelling to Malaysia and Singapore and asking for recommendations.
“Then he takes out his wallet to show a stack of US$100 bills saying oh how much are the hotels (???) and then showed 100 Euros saying (I heard in SG you need to stamp your Euros to change to SG dollars).”
He kept talking about money, asking Ms Wang to how him what small change looks like. She answered by telling him she had no cash on her.
He then went on to ask about Singapore dollars and wanted to see what the bills look like.“Uh, then google la,” she wrote.
But he was very persistent, even when they kept saying they didn’t have cash on them.
“Which is also true lol who walks around with stacks of 100 bills?”
Ms Wang wrote that at this point she felt “strangely uneasy” and the man gave up.
She bade the couple goodnight and walked away. Ms Wang interjected a warning, telling followers to “please never walk towards your actual room. Just keep walking.”
The couple “hovered for awhile” and when she turned, Ms Wang saw that they had pressed the elevator button and were about to leave.
She noted: “They don’t even stay here?! And they had said they were coming back from looking for food and are on the same floor.”
She went to her room, making sure to lock and latch her door, but continued to feel “super uneasy” as she traced when the couple started following them.
“We took an Uber from the city to the hotel – and their car pulled up behind ours when we arrived.”
She says she had been warned by many that there were many pickpockets and scammers in Paris, so she had always been on the alert.
She thought she would complete her trip to Paris “without any of those encounters”.
Ms Wang then offered safety tips such as leaving as soon as one feels that something is amiss, not giving one’s room details to strangers, never taking out one’s wallet or money except when actually paying.
Later on, friends and followers went on to share similar experiences and tips, some of which Ms Wang also shared on her IG stories.
She did say, however, that she would still visit Paris.
“The city is so much more than the black sheep that exists, and frankly that happens in any other part of the world. Manu people are really nice and friendly as well!”