Bank call scams: why more people are being caught out in France

Fraudsters are becoming smarter as the number of potential targets continues to increase

Banks are attempting to shore up their defences against scammers
Published Last updated

Increased digitisation and more sophisticated ‘phishing’ techniques are among the reasons for a surge in banking-related scams in France.

The number of scams that include fraudsters pretending to be from a victim’s bank rose by 78% in 2023, said government internet watchdog cyber CyberMalveillance.

The Banque de France estimates that people were scammed out of €628 million in the first quarter of 2023 alone.

Scammers are helped by the ever-increasing number of people turning to digital services, largely due to the lack of face-to-face alternatives.

Read more: Foreigners among the losers amid France’s ‘excessive digitisation’

This not only provides them targets who may be unused to online services and therefore vulnerable, but also provides more ways to get the required information from victims to initiate the scam.

“A scammer wakes up in the morning and… has a list of 100 or 200 customers to call. If one or two of those 200 people fall for the scam, [they make thousands of euros],” said lawyer Arnaud Delomel to La Dépêche.

‘Two-step’ process of scam starts with phishing

One large reason for the success of the scammers is the so-called ‘two-step’ method they use.

The first step sees people’s basic data stolen via ‘phishing’, usually from emails or information people have publicly used online.

An early example of this was seen in 2023, involving a fake SNCF railcard.

This can include information such as a person’s telephone number, email and home address, bank account information including the number, expiry date, and security code of your bank card.

Some of this data is often for sale on the dark web.

Read more: Data of Free internet and phone clients in France stolen and on sale

Scammers collect this information and put it to one side, sometimes waiting weeks before making contact with their target.

This information can also be gathered by emails claiming a person has to contest a parking ticket or have been caught breaking certain laws (which is fake) or technical support issues.

Sense of urgency tricks vulnerable victims

The second step of the scam sees fraudsters call their victims, pretending to be from their bank.

In some cases, they can alter the number they are calling from, so it appears as if the call is genuinely from your bank.

Not much can be done with much of the information originally phished in the weeks before, however knowing it gives the scammer an impression of authenticity.

The fraudsters then use a sense of urgency to scare people into making bad decisions.

Common examples are “someone is trying to make a fraudulent payment from your account”, or “someone is trying to log in to your account from elsewhere.”

They will then play on this fear, telling you to change your password on the phone with them, and that it must be done now as your account has been compromised.

Of course, handing over this final detail will give the fraudsters unfiltered access to your account, where they can clear out any money inside, or even lock you out by immediately changing the password again.

Alternatively, they will explain to customers how to cancel an incoming transaction (which does not exist) when in fact they are authorising an online banking payment to an account held by the scammer.

Banks fight back

To protect against this new digital threat, banks have been investing in increased protections for users.

This includes better software to track an unusual payment (larger than normal, or to an unidentified or foreign bank account) and more authorisation when making a transaction.

They are also quick to remind people that they will never call a person to block a fraudulent transaction – they can do this themselves – nor ask you over the phone to carry out any transactions.

You can read some more tips on how to prevent falling victim below.

Read more: How to avoid falling victim to ‘false bank advisor’ scams in France

Related articles

Online and text scams: France plans warning system to prevent fraud

Four common scams to watch out for in France