How a woman, 96, was conned out of nearly €200,000 in France

It began when a fraudster, pretending to be from the telecommunications firm Orange, called her over an ‘unpaid’ phone bill

The 96-year-old woman was conned into handing over almost €200,000 after being deceived over the phone
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A 96-year-old Frenchwoman has been conned into paying €194,000 to fraudsters after being deceived by a single phone call from a fake ‘Orange technician’.

The former teacher emptied her life savings between July 2021 and January 2022.

A fraudster called the victim, pretending to be from the telephone network Orange. The caller said the victim had unpaid phone bills.

The nonagenarian told Le Parisien: “They said I had €500 unpaid and that I was at risk of having my phone line cut off. I was worried. But the person on the phone reassured me, telling me that I would be contacted by a lawyer, who could help me sort out my case.”

Another fraudster, posing as a lawyer, then contacted her and offered to take on her file personally. He would ask her for fees repeatedly.

Over the summer of 2021, the victim was conned into withdrawing more than €100,000 from Crédit Mutuel three times, handing it over to the ‘lawyer’.

He later advised her to open a bank account at Société Générale and transfer €10,000 a time to an account in Belgium.

One of the fraudster’s ‘assistants’ even went to the victim’s home to ask for more cash. The woman had been giving him €500 a week and eventually handed over more than €25,000.

The situation got worse and the victim felt forced to put her flat up for sale at the beginning of 2022. The lawyer ordered her to pay €45,000 and suggested that she buy back her life insurance policy.

Eventually, in September 2022, one of the woman’s friends suspected a scam. She realised her friend was being controlled by someone else and submitted a formal complaint to her bank.

Investigators uncovered the scam but have not yet identified the criminals. The victim’s friend said: “We managed to save €60,000.”

Legal expert Mélanie Saldanha, from the consumer group UFC-Que Choisir, said the victim’s bank could be held liable in this case.

"If the bank does nothing when it notices [possible] abuse, it could be held liable, and this raises the question of duty of care,” she said. “Measures could have been put in place including the reduction of withdrawal limits, or restrictions on payment methods.”

“It’s not that I feel that I feel guilty,” the victim told Le Parisien. “But I stupidly trusted them. I was too gullible.”

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In April this year, one Connexion reader warned of another scam involving criminals pretending to call from Orange, who falsely claimed that technicians were working on the network and that she needed to leave her phone off the hook.

She had €67 stolen and would have lost more if her handyman, who happened to visit, had not suspected an issue and told her to hang up.

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