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Huge increase in "deaf/mute" scam in Paris

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Authorities have acknowledged a huge increase in a scam carried out by Romanian gypsies in Paris, this one based on requests for money for so-called deaf/mute girls.

The scam is straightforward. A young girl approaches the mark (usually a tourist) with a piece of paper and a pen, pretending to be deaf. The paper names a couple of charities, both real and fake, and bears the signatures of a few previous marks. The current mark is asked for money, and if he's naïve enough, he gives it. In some cases, the paper and request for money serve as a distraction for stealing a wallet or purse.

None of the girls is actually deaf. They are all Romanian gypsies. They are under 18, making it difficult to prosecute them. Their leader is nowhere to be found, so he cannot be arrested and prosecuted, even though the penalties for compelling children to beg are very severe (one sentence a few years ago was a 30-year prison term).

Many tourist areas of Paris are currently overrun by these scammers. Here's an article (in French) that describes the problem:

http://www.leparisien.fr/paris-75/paris-la-vraie-arnaque-des-faux-sourds-muets-14-08-2011-1565188.php

There's a general increase in scams of all kinds in Paris, as well as illegal commerce (people selling Eiffel Towers off the sidewalk, for example). If you are traveling to Paris soon, be aware and be sure to ignore the scammers and con artists.

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