People in France are being warned to be alert to a text health insurance scam that has already targeted hundreds of thousands of people. Five suspected perpetrators are currently being questioned in connection with the fraud.
The five men are suspected of working in an organised group and of having sent 424,000 text messages. The messages contained a link that took victims to a fake Assurance maladie website.
They would then be tricked into inputting personal details such as their social security number, which would lead to their money being stolen via other personal data like bank coordinates.
Social security numbers can also be sold on the dark web to enable other crimes such as identity fraud.
The five are accused of using a surveillance device in a vehicle to intercept mobile communications and steal telephone numbers from passing drivers.
Police discovered the fraudulent activity during a routine road check when they found an ‘IMSI-catcher’ (a telephone eavesdropping device used for intercepting mobile phone calls and tracking phone location data) in a car being driven by a woman, reports FranceInfo. The suspects were arrested on February 14.
The Paris prosecutor opened a judicial inquiry in connection with the charges of ‘fraudulent introduction and extraction of data in an automated data processing system' and 'organised fraud'.
How can I avoid falling victim to a similar scam?
The Assurance maladie does sometimes send SMSs to people in France. However, it will never ask for personal data or bank details, via a link or otherwise. In the very rare instance that it asks for confirmation of details, it will never ask you for your full details, only part of them.
You are also advised to:
Check the number carefully. All communications from the Assurance maladie will either come from 3646, 01 78 85 70 03 for the Sophia service (Sophia is the official chronic disease support service for asthma and diabetes) or 01 87 52 00 70 for calls about Covid vaccinations.
Check URLs carefully. A website may look legitimate but the URL may have slight errors or characters (such as a hyphen) that the real website does not.
When in doubt, do not click on URLs in text messages. Instead, navigate to the website yourself to be certain that it is the genuine page.
Never give out bank details or other personal data at the request of a text.
If in doubt, call your local CPAM on 3646. This is the only number that you should use.
Some examples of reported SMSs that are pretending to be from the Assurance maladie can also be seen, along with screenshots of them on phones, on the Assurance maladie website (Ameli) here.