Jean-Pierre and Marie-Thérèse, who live in the Haute-Garonne, were travelling on the A20 when they stopped at a small service station to take a break, and were confronted by an apparently-British family claiming to have been victims of theft.
The father, along with his supposed “wife”, two young girls, and a UK-registered car, explained that all of their belongings had been stolen from a restaurant in Toulouse the previous night, and they had nothing to help them return back home to the UK.
Although initially suspicious, the French couple took pity on the family after successfully checking out their car number plate. They eventually gave the family €400 to in cash help them return home.
The family’s “father” assured the French couple that they “would get all their money back on Monday”.
The two men even exchanged mobile phone numbers and continued to communicate via messaging app WhatsApp about the money for the next few days, before the British man stopped replying completely.
It was at this point that the French couple realised they had been scammed.
The press has dubbed the practice "the Irish scam" after reports emerged of a similar case on the A62 involving an Irish family.
Jean-Pierre explained to local newspaper La Dépêche du Midi: “The family seemed so unhappy. I checked out the car number plate and even though a little voice in the back of my head doubted the story, I took pity on them and trusted them. I know you can’t judge a book by its cover, but I didn’t think someone would go to such lengths to pretend.”
Despite losing money, the couple has “no regrets”, and has spoken out to warn others to be alert to similar situations.
Jean-Pierre added: “It could have been true; they could have been foreigners having problems in France and we would have been helpful [in that case]. But we will no longer be taken in, in future [by a similar scam].”
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