Life insurance pay-out scam resurfaces in France - how to spot it

The con involves realistic notaire letters but there are tell-tale signs

Victims received fake letters telling them they were entitled to a lump sum from a loved one’s policy
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A scam in which victims are told to pay a tax to recover the life insurance pay-out of a recently deceased person has reappeared, with two cases reported in January.

Victims received fake letters from Swiss Life, telling them they were entitled to a lump sum from a loved one’s policy.

It encouraged them to contact a fake notaire in Paris, including their name, email address, website – which appeared legitimate as it was on – and French business identification number (Siret).

The fake notaire asked the victim to fill out documents and, eventually, to pay a tax to access the money.

Neither of the two victims paid the fraudsters, but one said they would have fallen for the scam had it involved less money.

The fake notaire reportedly asked for €14,000 to receive a pay-out of €280,000.

The scam has resurfaced after a period of apparent inactivity.

Read more: Woman ‘too old’ for French life insurance despite paying for 37 years

Similar letters can be legitimate

Nicolas Bosquet, a notaire in Brittany, said: “A few years ago, we were aware of letters of this kind circulating, but they stopped, to our knowledge.

“It seems like it is restarting, so it is important to warn people.”

One reason the scam can be effective is that it is not uncommon for beneficiaries to be contacted in this way, Mr Bosquet warned.

“Like a genealogist informing you that a distant cousin you did not even know has died, a letter of this kind can be legitimate,” he said.

Information relating to deaths is easily available in France, such as the Insee death files, and personal addresses are also straightforward to access – a gift to scammers.

Read more: Briton in France told he CAN keep life insurance post-Brexit

Notaires will never ask for money to release a pay-out

Mr Bosquet encouraged anyone who has doubts about a letter to show it to a notaire, who will be able to verify it.

He pointed out that a notaire will never ask for money to release a life insurance pay-out.

Any fee or tax would be paid by the insurance company using the pay-out money, so there is no reason to send a notaire funds for this.

There is also no reason to use a third-party notaire. If you already have one, contact them. If not, find your own notaire and do not follow the recommendations of a letter, he said.

Finally, in these cases, the fake website and email address ended with rather than

All notaire websites and email addresses in France end with .fr.

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