Beware of scam Covid-19 appointment calls in France
Organised con teams persuade victims to telephone premium-rate number
People are warned to be wary of unsolicited calls concerning Covid-19 vaccinations as a scam has been doing the rounds in France since early January.
A scammer urges recipients to call a special number 'immediately' and ask for a specific person - and warns their victim to act quickly because of the number of people waiting to receive their vaccine.
Upon calling the 12-digit number, the unwitting victim of the scam speaks to someone who appears to know their case, and appears to have access to personal information. They are then told to wait and put on hold.
But the call is to a premium-rate line, and the cost of waiting on hold quickly racks up.
One victim, a man in his eighties living in Doubs, told L'Est Républicain that he had been waiting for his inoculation when he got the fraudulent call. "I was in such a hurry to get vaccinated that I was not suspicious," he said.
The call which he ended after just a few minutes when realising he was being scammed, was billed at €14.
He is not the first to fall into the trap. Since January, the number of fraudulent emails and calls, or even door-to-door scams has risen - while fake negative Covid-19 test result certificates are being offered to travellers at airports in France at a cost of up to €150 per document.
In Cesson-Sévigné, Ille-et-Vilaine, two women posed as members of a pro-vaccine association and stole the savings of one elderly victim, Huffington Post reported.
Any calls from Assurance maladie will come from one of two numbers: 3646 or 05 53 35 62 37 and no official will ask for financial information. Any call from another number, unless it is your doctor, should be considered suspicious.
Vaccination against Covid-19 is free. To get an appointment, the sante.fr site lists the vaccination centres closest to you.
According to the Ministry of Health, despite the recent increase in instances, the number of scams remains rare - and warned those caught risk 'severe punishment'.