France moves to clamp down on workers’ training course scams

Employees and freelance workers can receive funding for professional training but the scheme is bogged down by aggressive marketing and fraud

Scammers have been targeting France's CPF, a scheme funding professional training courses

France’s parliament has taken a step towards banning companies from directly encouraging people to sign up for training courses via the compte personnel de formation (CPF), a government scheme that funds professional training.

A bill on this was unanimously approved by the lower house of parliament, the Assemblée nationale, on Thursday (October 6). It must still be approved by the upper house, the Senate.

People working in France each year receive money on their CPF account to fund training courses. Full-time employees can receive €500 per year, with those working fewer hours getting proportionally less. The maximum a person can have on their account is €5,000.

The courses can be used to further existing work skills or to plan towards a change in career and are for the worker and not their employer, if they have one, to decide on.

The CPF was introduced in 2019 to replace a previous, similar system called the droit individuel à la formation (Dif), but with the key difference that people are now allocated money onto their accounts instead of just hours.

This has led to an increase in people taking training courses but has also increased the number of scammers trying to steal from people’s accounts as well as the number of companies aggressively marketing their courses by contacting people through email, SMS or phone calls.

The government reimburses companies for the costs of holding training courses meaning that some are just fronts in it to take public funds.

Three of TheConnexion team have been contacted by companies pushing to get them to sign up for training courses via the CPF – it is not clear if this was a scam or simply aggressive marketing.

CPF-linked fraud increased sharply in 2021, the government’s financial intelligence unit, Tracfin, reports.

The number of suspicious transaction reports rose from 10 in 2020 to 116 in 2021. This represents suspected fraud of €43.2million, compared to €7.8million a year earlier.

In almost three years, five million people have been trained via the CPF at a total cost of €7billion.

MP Bruno Fuchs, who tabled the draft bill, said it was not intended to “prohibit companies from promoting their training courses”.

"The aim is to get back to basics: it is the account holder who decides on his or her training and who takes the decision to contact an organisation,” he said.

Carole Grandjean, Minister for vocational education and training, said:

"I am very happy to support this law to clean up the illegal practices that tarnish the image of the CPF.”

The bill states that rule breakers could be fined up to €75,000 for an individual person or up to €375,000 for a business.

Despite the issues with fraud and aggressive marketing, the CPF is a legitimate way for people to receive funding for professional training.

The best advice is to never sign up for a course via the CPF that is being advertised to you by a company and never give your personal details, including your social security number, to anyone contacting you claiming to be from the CPF or any other third-party company.

The government advises anyone who receives a phone call about CPF training courses to hang up immediately and to never click on links in text message advertising CPF courses.

Additionally, it warns against promotions in which gifts such as laptops or tablets - or even cashback - are offered in exchange for signing up for a CPF course.

Scammers also use social media to target their victims.

If you are interested in doing a professional training course via the CPF, you should sign up for one on your own initiative through the CPF website.

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