Beware of Pickpockets!!
It is very easy to be taken advantage of while in big cities by many different types of pickpockets.
1). Seemingly Innocent Petition holders-
We encountered these young girls all over Paris! What they do is ask if you speak English- If they have a clipboard in their hand, say no and walk away quickly. If you do say you speak English, prepare to hear about some charity that they are gathering signatures for, and they will assure you it's free...until you sign it and they hound you for at least 5 Euros. Be cautious for when you say no though, because they will be persistent, and even group up on you. While we were walking near the Louvre, a group of six swarmed us! Make sure to watch your purse and pockets, because when they were asking us to sign, they reached into our pockets!
2). String Men-
These are usually men in their 20-30s. The ones I have encountered have a few different types of tokens, but always the same tactic. They will offer you their token (string bracelet, figurine, rose, bird seed) for free, if you accept it they will follow you around begging for money until you give them some. But still be cautious, because even if you say no thank you, they will try to put it on you somehow and claim that was you accepting and still ask for money relentlessly!
3). Your typical pick pocket-
These are the ones you can't describe, because you never notice them- until your stuff is gone! The best advice for these is to be smart. Usually, they are just trying to scope out where you keep your wallet, how much money you have, or if you have credit cards so they can easily distract you and grab your stuff. After all, they are called "pickpockets" for a reason right? If you are in a crowded area, always keep a hand on your purse. If you are somewhere were you can get distracted, by for example taking a picture, don't leave your purse wide open or laying somewhere. If you are staying in a hostel with lots of people, bring a lock, so you can keep your stuff in a secure locker.
There are countless ways to be scammed out of your money, especially in large cities in foreign countries. Basically the best tip I can give is to try to blend in! People who are usually targeted in these scams are unaware tourists. Also, do not be afraid to be rude. Usually if you show you aren't scared to speak up, they won't mess with you, since you could easily cause a scene and possibly them getting in trouble. After all of my times abroad, I have just started to firmly say no, and they will go right on to the next person. If you hesitate or slow down any, they will not stop bothering you, and possibly have some of their posse join to pressure you!
As my dad always says, keep your wits about you!