Warning over rise in phishing email and SMS scams in France

Here is what to look for and how to avoid being caught out

A man looking closely at his smartphone
Scams can come via email or SMS and may look very legitimate, so you are warned to stay alert before handing over personal or financial data
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Scam emails and SMS texts are on the increase in France, residents are warned, after a sharp rise in the number detected by the national cybercrime agency during 2021.

Jean-Jacques Latour, a manager at the cybermalveillance.gouv.fr platform, said: “People are literally being harassed by telephone and message.”

Many of the scams relate to official agencies, and scammers often pretend to be calling from the Work Ministry or unemployment office Pôle emploi, he told Capital.fr.

Reports of financial scams, and those seeking your data and financial details, spiked, he added.

These types of scams – in which scammers impersonate an official agency, website, or group – are known as “phishing” in English (“hameçonnage” in French).

Mr Latour said: “About 2.5 million visitors visited cybermalveillance.gouv.fr in 2021. 1.3 million of them went there to consult phishing-related content.”

Scams can be varied and even threatening.

A common one circulating recently appeared to come from child protection agency La Brigade de Protection de la Famille (BPF), threatening the victim with allegations of child pornography offences, and warning of severe legal repercussions if they do not pay.

Another common SMS scam includes asking for payment for a parcel delivery, which, as online shopping continues to rise, is easy to fall for.

Mr Latour explained: “The messages are worded in such a way that if you have sent a package or are expecting one, it works. People tend to think that if you text them on their phone number, you know them [and can be trusted]. They feel safer than with emails.”

Some messages may even appear to come from your bank, l’Assurance maladie, or la Sécurité sociale, and can look very convincing at first glance.

Read more:Government alert over new Carte vitale reimbursement scams in France

Advice to avoid scams

If you are in any doubt about an email or SMS, receive an email or SMS that asks you to click on a link, or are being asked to pay for something unexpectedly – even if only a small amount – or you receive a message or email asking for bank or personal details, STOP.

Contact the supposed agency or group directly and separately to check if the message is genuine, and avoid clicking on any links within emails or texts.

When considering links, look for spelling or grammatical errors; website addresses that do not appear official or which have extra words, odd characters or punctuation; or which read “.com” rather than “.fr” or similar.

Type website addresses manually rather than clicking on links, and avoid entering any bank or personal details, especially if the payment seems unusual or unexpected.

Individuals can report any suspected scams on the website cybermalveillance.gouv.fr.

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