When Christmas is approaching, with all its festive distractions, it can be easy to let one’s guard down and fall victim to scammers looking to catch people out.
Several scam warnings have been issued in recent weeks. These include:
Carte Vitale cons
A retired couple in Vaucluse has recently fallen victim to another in a long line of carte Vitale scams, in which a message is sent by email or SMS asking the recipient to pay a small fee for the delivery of their new card, Le Dauphiné Libéré reports.
The couple in question received an email telling them to pay 64 cents for a new carte Vitale, and were then called by a supposed bank worker informing them that their account had been accessed illegally.
The person posing as a bank employee told the couple to move their money to another, ‘safer’ account, but this actually belonged to the scammers.
Crit’Air sticker scams
A rising number of people in France are falling victim to scam messages instructing them to renew or purchase a Crit’Air (vehicle emissions rating) sticker at up to ten times the correct price, or face a fine. Often the drivers targeted do not need a sticker.
There have also been warnings that search engines show other sites selling these stickers at €10, €20 or €30. The other sites may not be illegal but they charge more for the stickers, which should only cost €3.11 + P&P each.
The scam usually works by SMS with a message reading something like this:
"Nos agents ont constaté que votre véhicule n'était pas muni de la vignette réglementaire Crit'Air. Veuillez cliquer sur le lien ci-dessous pour la récupérer sous peine de contraventions."
This translates to: “Our agents have identified that your vehicle does not have a regulation Crit’Air sticker. Please click on the link below to update it, or you will be subject to fines.”
The link takes you to a page where you can buy ‘regulation’ Crit’Air stickers. The problem is that these stickers are being sold for a much higher price than the real stickers.
The SMS is a scam and you will very likely not receive a Crit’Air sticker you ‘purchase’ at the link. The scammers could then steal even more money from you once they have your bank details.
The only website to use to order Crit’Air stickers is: www.certificat-air.gouv.fr.
Fake heating engineers
Elderly people in France are also being targeted by a scam in which a man pretending to be a heating engineer manages to enter his victims’ homes before stealing their bank cards.
Midi Libre reported that the man was able to make some withdrawals with the cards before he was arrested by police in Nîmes
Similarly, Le Progrès has reported on a scam in which a ‘gas engineer’ knocks on people’s doors telling them that they are eligible for a financial bonus.
To benefit, he tells them that they need to insert their bank card into a machine to see their account credited with the funds.
The machine then collects their bank details and makes it possible for the scammer to spend their money online. One victim saw €2,000 come out of their account.
Messages from ‘family members’
A new phone scam has arrived in France, where SMS messages are sent purporting to be from a family member. The message says that their phone has broken and they have a new number to register.
It includes a phone number with a link, and then an invitation to add the number and send it a message via the common messaging app WhatsApp.
Then, the sender asks for a sum of money urgently to help them replace their ‘broken’ phone. Some even promise to pay back immediately once they can get back into their banking phone app.
The message is typically addressed to ‘maman/papa’, and may appear very credible to parents, especially those with teenagers. Older people are most often targeted by the messages.
Vous recevez un message d'un proche qui vous dit qu'il a cassé son téléphone et qu'il faut l'appeler sur un autre numéro en urgence ? C'est l'arnaque de "l'urgence familiale" très en vogue chez les anglophones et qui arrive en France ⏬ #SMS #alerte #arnaque pic.twitter.com/yrmLk9zNiE— Signal-Arnaques (@SignalArnaques) December 9, 2022
How to avoid being scammed
Never share your bank details with anyone. Your bank will never ask you for your details in their entirety, and may only ask, for example, for the second and fourth digits in your pin.
Ask questions and do not panic. If you receive a scam call or if someone comes to your door, they will often look to intimidate or worry you so that you hand over your details in a hurry. If anyone does this, you should assume that it is a scam and continue to treat it with suspicion. If you receive an alarming call from a ‘bank employee’, for example, you could hang up and then ring your bank again and ask if they just contacted you.
Check email addresses. If you receive an email supposedly from an official source, but the email address looks strange, you should be suspicious. The same goes for text messages claiming to be from a bank, La Poste etc. but which have been sent from a personal number.
Watch out for spelling mistakes. If you receive a message that contains errors or is written in a strange way, treat it with suspicion.
Tell your bank. If you think you have fallen victim to a scam, call your bank as soon as you can so that it can try to block any attempt to withdraw money from your account. If funds have already been taken out, it may be too late, but sometimes they can still be recovered.
File a complaint. If you do fall victim to a scam you should inform the police so that action can be taken to find the scammers and/or to warn people of the scheme. You can also report scams on the government’s Perceval platform.