With an increasing number of official-looking scams doing the rounds it can be difficult to be certain and the Urssaf letter seemed to fit the bill because of its untidy layout.
Titled Mise en place cotisation subsidiaire maladie (cotisation PUMA), it refers to payments for healthcare, despite the fact some recipients are UK state pensioners whose healthcare is paid for by the UK.
It says the health system changed in 2016 to a ‘residence-based’ scheme known as Protection Universelle Maladie (Puma). And, as for the old CMU system, payments may be involved for those who are legally resident but do not have healthcare rights from other sources.
No ‘Puma’ contributions were collected in 2016 so the first bills were set to go out in late 2017 and the letter was sent to remind people to expect them.
Although saying it was being sent to residents who do not have French pensions and do not pay social charges via work, it seems it was sent both to those who may need to pay for Puma, such as British early retirees and, by mistake, to some holders of S1 forms, who do not.
An Urssaf spokeswoman said: “It is indeed a letter from us and recipients may contact Urssaf, using details provided in the letter, to clarify their situation.”
Real scams, such as an email from the Direction Générale des Impôts, saying to click on a link to get a tax refund of €110.20, one from Votre Assurance Maladie offering €119.74, or a Ministère de l’Écologie et de l’Environnement letter offering insulation (‘Isolation pour tous’) for €1 should be avoided.
Similarly, a reader received a ‘phishing’ email claiming to be from Orange – but from a suspicious address – saying an automatic payment had failed and asking to click a link for the ‘client space’...
In short, never click on email links unless you are certain of the sender, otherwise delete the email. Tax authorities never ask for bank or other personal details via email or telephone.
Businesses are also hit as new data protection rules called RGPD come in on May 25 and scammers have been trying to get people to call premium phone lines, pay for fake consent checks or give information about their firms. An official information helpline on the measures is at 01 53 73 22 22.