Property buyers in France scammed out of €26,000 by fake bank advisor

Couple checked the advisor’s details but thieves had stolen his identity to trick them into paying over a property deposit

The couple lost their entire savings due to the scam. Photo for illustrative purposes only
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A couple in the north of France were tricked out of their savings for a home deposit after scammers stole a bank advisor's identity and offered an appealing deal.

Despite taking numerous precautions, including contacting an independent broker for advice, the couple have lost their entire savings of €26,000, which they believed was being used for a deposit on a home in Tourcoing (Nord).

The ‘advisor’ had asked them to pay the money into a newly opened bank account, then completely cut contact.

They have filed a report at the local police station but have not recovered their money.

Couple checked all details but were still scammed

Victoria and Romain, both under the age of 30, were being helped by Victoria’s mother, and searching for mortgages online through the comparison site

An advisor from Hello Bank, the digital wing of the BNP Paribas chain reached out, offering a mortgage with a 2.2% interest rate, much lower than the 3.2% national average at the time.

The couple feared it was too good to be true and contacted a mortgage broker.

“The broker told us, 'You won't find a better deal anywhere else, so go for it',” said Romain.

They also searched for information about the Hello Bank advisor online, and were able to confirm he was a legitimate broker with the company.

Advisor asked for deposit in new account

They found a property in March 2023 and plans were finalised in July and the loan approved.

The mortgage advisor asked the couple to transfer the money for the deposit into a new bank account opened in their name by the advisor as the final step before they could sign the paperwork required.

They sent the money over but then the advisor stopped responding to any of their requests and did not transfer any documents over.

Sabine, Victoria’s mum, contacted the insurance company with which the mortgage advisor was supposedly working and it confirmed it did not work with any Hello Bank advisors.

She then contacted the bank’s helpline and was told the ‘mortgage advisor’ had recently been a victim of identity theft and that they had in fact been dealing with a scammer.

Read more: How easy is it to change bank in France?

How can I avoid such a scam?

Scammers often target people buying homes, especially first-time buyers or those from abroad, who may be unfamiliar with the French system.

It is important to remember that no money should be transferred until a notarised deed of sale is signed, regardless of what a mortgage advisor may say.

Secondly, money for a deposit is only ever transferred through a caisse des dépôts with the notaire, and not to the advisor nor any other bank account.

A legitimate mortgage advisor will never discuss making or cancelling a payment over phone, email or text and will not send you an online link to make a transaction.

Finally, the same general prudence around banking safety should be followed with mortgage advisors.

People “should never pass on their bank codes and identifiers to a third party,” says the Fédération bancaire française (French Banking Federation, FBF).

“At no time and under no circumstances should an advisor ask a customer to communicate these confidential security details, whether by telephone or by sending an e-mail or web link,” it adds.

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