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

These types of scams have ‘exploded’ in recent years, says a cybersecurity expert

A woman holding a phone looking at an unknown call
Some sophisticated scammers may even ‘spoof’ the bank’s number, so it appears to be a genuine call from a known number
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People with bank accounts in France are being warned about a new scam, in which false bank advisors call you about money transfers. One victim lost €19,000.

The scam, which is a form of ‘phishing’, sees people posing as banking advisors, who (ironically) call to warn you about fraud. They may even say that you have already been a victim, and that the bank is working to stop the scam.

They then invite you to transfer money between your accounts, under the pretence that this is needed to keep your money safe, and that you are simply transferring your money from one of your accounts to another. In reality, however, the transfer is going to the scammer’s account.

The callers may sound very official and articulate; and may even have details of your accounts that make them sound genuine, such as IBAN numbers and other figures.

Increase in transfer call scams

These types of scams have been increasing in frequency in recent years, said Jean-Jacques Latour, head of cybersecurity expertise at the government platform

"This phenomenon started to gain momentum in 2022,” he said to Le Point . “In the second half of 2022, we received 1,600 reports on our platform. By the end of the year, we had received more than 5,000. This phenomenon is exploding.”

One woman, aged 32, told Le Parisien that she had lost €19,000: “Everything that I had been saving since I was 18,” she said. Another victim told TF1 that she had lost €13,000.

Julien Lasalle, part of the security team at the Banque de France, told Le Point that "in the first half of 2023, fraud by manipulation accounted for €88 million in card payment fraud on the Internet and €115 million in transfer fraud”.

The scam has two stages, Mr Lasalle said.

Firstly, the criminals collect the victims’ details, and may send victims “fake websites where they enter their card number, account number, secret code, and address”. Then, the scammer calls the victim, pretending to be from their bank’s anti-fraud service.

They may even ‘spoof’ the bank’s number, so it appears to be a genuine call.

They may then warn that “there have been some abnormal transactions on your account, and we need to carry out a number of authentication tests”, said Mr Lasalle.

The victim, convinced that they are speaking to their bank, and possibly even feeling grateful that their bank alerted them to the ‘problem’, will validate the caller’s transactions. They may not even realise they are being scammed until long afterwards, when their money disappears.

“The terrible thing about these cases is that the victim actively participates in the fraud, which is often criticised by the banks,” said Mr Lasalle.

The scams are often so sophisticated that young professionals appear just as likely as elderly and vulnerable people to being duped.

How can I avoid falling victim?

These tips may help:

  • Never click on any links, copy, or follow any URLs sent to you ‘by your bank’. Instead, navigate to the page yourself by typing in the address.

  • Never reveal your personal details to anyone, especially if they contact you ‘out of the blue’ via email or phone. If you do need to do banking online, log in using your own secret details, never reveal them to anyone, and go to the page or app yourself, not from a link.

  • Never reveal personal numbers or authentication/confirmation codes - such as a text message code to authorise a transaction - with anyone, including your bank or the police.

Be aware that:

  • Your bank will never ask you to click on a link or confirm details over the phone, and they will never ask for the entirety of your personal details (for example, they may ask you for the answer to your security questions, but they will never ask for that as well as your account number, card number, PIN etc).

  • Your bank also never needs your help to block a fraudulent transaction, and will never call to ask you to transfer money from one account to another. Nor will it ask you to carry out transactions or operations over the phone using any authentication details.

If you suspect you have been called by one of these scammers, even if you did not fall victim, you should still hang up, and call your bank to alert them, as the criminals may still have your details and could steal money that way.

If you have fallen victim, hang up, and call your bank immediately. They may be able to stop the transfer or transaction, and get your money back.

You are also advised to file a complaint and report the attack on the official site.

Will my bank automatically refund me?

Some banks may initially refuse for larger amounts, and they may also claim that you were negligent and are therefore not entitled to a refund.

However, there are some legal routes you can take to force the bank to issue a refund.

Suzanne Gignoux, a lawyer, said: “The law provides for a distribution of the loss according to the ‘attitude of the parties’, whether of the bank or the customer. So if a customer's means of payment has been misappropriated without their knowledge, in principle, the bank owes them a full refund.

“This is also the case if the payment has been made without strong authentication, for example, the SMS confirmation sent to the customer, which no-one else has access to.

“If there was no such strong authentication and the bank cannot prove that you acted fraudulently, then it owes you a refund,” she said.


Some banks claim that the customer acted negligently, and they will refuse a refund on this basis.

For example, if you “panicked” and did give the fraudster this secret text code despite warnings in the text message not to do so, the bank may have a case against you. However, you can then take the case to court, and it will “be up to the judge, who will rule on a case-by-case basis,” said Ms Gignoux.

Mr Lasalle, from the Banque de France, said that many banks have become more lenient on scam cases, on advice from the Banque de France.

“They have adapted their procedures,” he said. “What's more, they have also made a commitment…to carry out an assessment of our recommendations, and to check whether they are being correctly applied, and are sufficiently favourable to consumers who are victims of fraud.”

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