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Bank fraud and other scams on rise in France: What to watch out for

A quarter of scams concern the provision of a service such as accommodation or a telephone contract, another quarter concern goods such as clothes or food

The number of reported scams rose by 7% in May Pic: Tero Vesalainen / Shutterstock

The number of scams being reported to police in France rose by 7% from April to May this year, with 36,755 victims recorded, according to figures from the interior ministry. 

This upswing comes after a 2% drop in reported scams from March to April, the Service statistique ministériel de la Sécurité intérieure (SSMSI) reports. 

Scam rates are “at much higher levels” than they were before the Covid crisis began, increasing by 15% during 2021 alone.

In that year, police and gendarmerie forces recorded 423,000 scams or similar offences, compared to 318,000 in 2016. 

The actual number of fraudulent schemes being carried out will be significantly higher as  victims often do not report incidents that befall them. 

An interior ministry study from March 2022 called ‘Cadre de vie et sécurité’ (Living environment and security) suggested that only a quarter of scam victims went to report the crime to the police, and only 17% had made official statements.

A new government tool has now made it possible for people to report scams online, which may encourage victims to come forward in greater numbers.  

We look at the fraudulent trends to look out for. 

Are there areas of France where scams are more common? 

It is possible to get scammed no matter where you live, especially as many are carried out online. 

However, the interior ministry reports that in 2021, the scam incidence rate increased by 1.4% in Paris, 0.7% in Hauts-de-Seine, 0.6% in Bouches-du-Rhône and Gironde, 0.5% in Rhône and in Haute-Garonne. These are the departments which contributed most to the national 15% rise. 

Only Deux-Sèvres saw a marked reduction of 5% in the number of scams being carried out.

What are the scams which occur most frequently?

  • Bank fraud - Between 2010 and 2018, the number of people finding that money had been withdrawn illegally from their account more than doubled. 

Scams often involve the fraudulent acquisition of an account-holder’s card number or other details. Some 71% of these incidents happened after a purchase using a bank cards, and two thirds of the time this was over the internet. Consumers are advised to be wary of the sites they use.

In 2020, 1.3 million households – or 4.4% of the total number of households in France – fell victim to such scams. Younger people are generally more affected than older households. 

  • Fraudulent schemes - People are also often impacted by scams involving orders which never arrive, dishonest advertisements, services never provided, inaccurate invoices and calls telling them to ring back on a paid number. 

In 2018, 1.2 million people aged over 14 in metropolitan France were victims of cons such as these. At the time, 36% of transactions which did not provide the products or services expected were scams.

  • Blackmail or other traps - This may involve a false request for help, a supposedly romantic relationship which soon becomes a financial drain on one partner, or extortion. 

This type of scam is on the rise, according to the latest figures, while those relating to poor quality products or unexpected additional charges are in decline. 

In general, a quarter of scams concern the provision of a service such as accommodation, a holiday or a telephone contract. 

Another quarter relate to a product such as food or clothes, 20% to a larger piece of equipment such as a car, furniture or an electrical appliance and 7% to fake advertisements or dishonest relationships. 

A further 7% are linked to the enjoyment of a cultural event or venue such as a theatre show or concert, and 5% are down to data theft.

How much money do people normally lose? 

In a third of cases, the scammed person loses less than €50, but in one in 10 cases the sum exceeds €1,000.

Three quarters of scams are perpetrated remotely, and the scammer never meets their victim, making identification and punishment difficult.

How can I avoid being scammed? 

You should be suspicious of texts, calls or emails which appear to come from an unknown source. 

If you receive a message supposedly from a known service provider but it contains spelling mistakes, inconsistencies or requests for information such as your bank details, you should also be very wary. If in doubt, you can always call the actual organisation to ask whether they really did contact you. 

It is also best to avoid clicking links on strange emails or texts. 

Do not send any money or share your details with an unknown person, and remember that offers which seem too good to be true often are. 

Related articles 

Urssaf: French social security contributions agency hit by scammers

France scam alert: Warning over credit card PIN code thefts

Cannes restaurants lose thousands of euros to card machine scam

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