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Seven much-used scams to watch out for in France

They are happening more often and are becoming harder to spot

The aim of a cyber attack scam is to steal personal data and banking data Pic: Pungu x/Shutterstock

Frauds in France are becoming more and more difficult to spot. Gone are the obvious spelling mistakes and requests for money, now scammers often use very realistic websites with official government logos to manipulate their victims. 

Here are some of the most common scams to watch out for.

1. Ransom demands

In France, ransomware accounted for 27% of ransom demands in 2022 and 2023. While many companies have fallen victim to this type of attack, so have individuals. 

Although ransom demands for individuals are not as attractive to cybercriminals whose main motivation remains the lure of profit, they do still occur. 

On a personal basis this involves criminals using ransomware, a type of malware which prevents users from accessing their computer files, systems, or networks and displays a message or a dialog box asking for money. 

These scammers can even pose as internet security companies in order to gain access to your computer.

Once you have let them access your system, they can either install malware or demand that you pay them an exorbitant fee for 'security'.

2. Bulgarian breakdown

Drivers are being warned of a scam in which they are signalled to stop by a distressed-looking motorist, who says their car has broken down and that they need to go to a service station for help. 

The motorist is often accompanied by a woman and child (claiming to be their family).

Saying they have no money or bank card to pay to repair their vehicle, they instead offer jewellery in exchange for some cash you either have on hand or can take out from a nearby ATM. 

The jewellery, however, is worthless, leaving victims out of pocket when they try to sell it. 

This scam has been dubbed the panne bulgare (Bulgarian breakdown) due to most cars involved having Bulgarian number plates.

Read more: Police alert over breakdown scam on drivers in south-west France

3. Fake fines

A phenomenon observed in 2023 has been phishing with the use of fake fines. In this case, you receive a text or email saying that you have a ticket for example for prohibited parking or speeding. 

The hope is that in a panic, you will follow the link to a fake site to pay off the fine. Such websites can be very convincing, and use the colours of the real government website.

Once you have entered your personal data and banking details however, the scammers have won.

Example fraudulent messages (Cybermalveillance.gouv.fr)

4. Expired health card

Another common scam seen in France is people receiving a text message offering the renewal of a supposedly expired Carte Vitale (health insurance card). 

To renew you are directed to a site which has nothing to do with the real Ameli health insurance site, at which point you give the (scammers) your personal data or even your bank details.

Obviously, you should never click on the link in the SMS, and be especially careful not to disclose the information written on the Carte Vitale, starting with your social security number, or your Ameli password. 

With this information scammers may be able to access France Connect which gives them access to a multitude of sites, such as the tax etc.

5. Email account hacking

The second most significant form of computer malware experienced by individuals and businesses alike is email account hacking. 

People often have a number of copies of documents in their mailbox that can be valuable to cybercriminals such as an identity card or a tax notice. 

Hackers can resell this information on the dark web. Even simple information, like your name, email address and phone number is of value.

6. Crit’Air stickers

Crit’Air stickers are small vignettes that must be displayed on any vehicle in low-emission zones and scammers are now sending text messages at random to unsuspecting victims, who are told that they must update their Crit’Air sticker via a link to a seemingly official website. 

The real purpose is to trick people into visiting phishing websites where they provide their personal information. 

Any information that victims enter into the fraudulent websites can then be used by scammers. 

In fact, the official website for information about Crit’Air does not send any text or email alerts. 

Read more: Crit’Air car sticker scams multiply in France

7. Fuel station scam

A recent scam at petrol stations has seen drivers approached by individuals at petrol stations, claiming their car ran out of fuel just before reaching the station. The individual then asks if they can borrow a couple of litres. 

Once the victim agrees, the culprits return with an XL-sized jerry can, and then – by force – fill it up before leaving without compensating the driver, who is left to pay the increased bill themselves.

Similar to the breakdown scam, the perpetrators manipulate people’s kindness for their own benefit.

Read also

What is ‘fork trick’ used to steal €80,000 from Paris cashpoints?

Wooden house passed off as brick fools new owners in France

Watch out for fake housing scam popular in France in autumn

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