France warned against Covid-19 scams and fakes

Many scams related to coronavirus Covid-19 have been reported in France, including soaring (illegal) costs for hand sanitiser gel

As coronavirus Covid-19 continues to spread across France, the public is being warned against scams such as fake sanitiser gel and tests, expired masks, and soaring prices for hand gel.

The public is warned to be alert.

A gendarmerie statement in newspaper Le Télégramme said: “Scammers are inventive, and now want to profit from coronavirus to get rich from the fear of the weakest [people].”

Unauthorised tests

The Agence Régionale de Santé (ARS) in the Pays de la Loire found that some private companies were offering “fast” Covid-19 tests for sale, mainly to elderly care homes. This is despite the fact that only hospitals are currently authorised to perform the tests properly.

No other tests are genuine or guaranteed to provide accurate results.

Mask scams

Another scam involved a man in the Ain (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes), who was found to have bought 90,000 face protection masks that had expired in 2014. He was looking to resell the stock for €70,000, when he was caught by the gendarmerie.

Yet another “mask scam” case was reported in Paris after some men dressed as French police told a group Chinese students - who were wearing masks - that they needed to pay on-the-spot fines as their masks contravened the country’s “full-face veil” law.

In a statement, the Chinese embassy said: “These students were forced to pay €150 in fines by ‘policemen’ for having broken the law that bans complete face covering in public spaces. Police investigation found that these ‘police’ were pretending to be police.

“Wearing a mask for health reasons is absolutely not illegal.”

Fake ‘decontamination’

Reports have also emerged in the Gironde (‎Nouvelle-Aquitaine) of people visiting homes - especially those belonging to older people - to offer “decontamination services”, which are totally ineffective in reality.

According to police, the scammer comes into the victim’s house with a pressure washer or similar hose, “blasts some water, which will have no effect”, and then charges the homeowner €1,500.

If the resident is reluctant to allow the cleaning, the scammers have also been reported to be selling fake disinfectant, and have even entered the house on occasion, in some cases to gather information for a future burglary attempt.

 

Soaring sanitiser costs

Although not technically a “scam” at first, as demand has grown for hand sanitiser gel, prices have soared online.

One bottle of 300ml was listed for €300 on online auction site eBay, and a pot of disinfectant was sold for €240. Another Twitter user posted a shot of a small, 100ml bottle of sanitiser being sold for €11.55 on Amazon, with free delivery promised within “2 to 3 weeks”.

This is now illegal in France, as the government has now imposed caps on prices: 50 ml for €2; 100 ml for €3, 300 ml for €5, and one litre for €15.

To address the shortage, the government has also authorised pharmacies to make their own gel.

Assorted scams

The French national consumer and fraud office la DGCCRF (La Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes) has said that it has received more than 8,000 reports on its website (signal.conso.gouv.fr) of scam products linked to Covid-19 in the past few weeks - including many with “extortionate” prices.

Among these have included a lamp with alleged “disinfectant abilities” and an “anti-virus air purifier”.

Fatou Diallo, manager of national enquiries at DGCCRF said: “We have removed thousands of products since last week.”

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