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Beware the Christmas firefighter calendar scam, say French police

Bogus door-to-door marketers don false costumes to sell fake calendars to an unsuspecting public

Make sure to check credentials of firefighters or other municipal workers who come to collect for Christmas Pic: Kzenon / Shutterstock

As the season of goodwill approaches, watch out for door-to-door scammers, warns the French police. 

The most popular scam seems to involve fake firemen, who rely on public goodwill to make a dishonest buck. They are closely followed by bogus postmen and swindling refuse collectors who hone in on the public before and after Christmas, in the build-up to New Year.

It has already started in the Hérault region. On the Facebook page of the Montpellier firefighters' association, a photo is published of the cover of the 2023 calendars: "Any other photo on the calendar is a spoof," says Cédric Carmona of the Hérault firemen’s association.

How to distinguish fake from real firefighters? 

“If you have any doubt, you can ask them for a professional card of the National Federation of Firemen of France (Fédération nationale de sapeurs-pompiers de France), they must also be dressed in uniform to ring your doorbell and be in pairs.”

His firefighters distribute up to 50,000 calendars in the Montpellier area alone, and the money goes to the firefighters charity as well as organising meals for the elderly, parties for children and donations to children’s charities. 

In Paris, things are quite clear: these collections are forbidden to municipal agents, on pain of disciplinary action. Scams of this kind are not new: there is a prefectural decree dating from 1955, which reminds Parisians to "refuse the gratuity and to note the identity of the beggar". The same strictures apply in Lyon and Paris.

So, look out for the following:

  • La Poste - Your usual postal worker, wearing their uniform
  • Firefighters - Wearing their uniform and with a professional ID card
  • Council workers, especially refuse collectors - Wearing their uniform that will normally clearly show the name of your commune or area

Firefighters are the only group that are ‘officially’ allowed to sell their calendars; the other professions are tolerated – but other kinds of workers are not allowed.

“When selling calendars, the official logo (fire brigade, the commune etc.) of the institution must appear on the item sold, and very often there will also be a photo (or several) of the team. If the logo is not there, it is a fake,” says a statement from the gendarmerie.

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