The scams affect those who are trying to complete tasks as simple as requesting a copy of their birth certificate or signing up to the electoral register.
According to the French competition and consumer protection body DGCCRF the these scams affect one million people in France, with the damage estimated at €150 million a year.
But now a new government campaign, launched Monday, intends to draw attention to these scam websites which many didn't know existed.
“When you get this type of scam online, it's expensive, and it particularly affects people's confidence in online administrative procedures,” said the Secretary of State to the Minister of the Economy and Finance, Delphine Gény-Stephann.
“If we want the transformation to digital to be beneficial to our economy, we must strengthen the protection of consumers.”
The campaign aims to give web users tips to help identify the fraudulent sites which are often quite convincing with the right public services logos, the French flag and Marianne, the national symbol of the French Republic.
For a start anyone looking to undertake an administrative task should visit www.service-public.fr as their first port of call.
Among the recommendations is to check that the site ends in “.fr” for example “.gouv.fr” and never “.gouv.org” or “.gouv .com” to make sure that it is hosted in France.
Another giveaway is that the scam sites ask users to pay for services which are free on the real sites such as getting copies of important documents, with some charging users €1 for birth certificates.
One of the most common problem areas is those requesting a copy of their criminal record.
“In 2016, more than 2,300 complaints about unacknowledged criminal record requests were reported by the National Criminal Record department, of which 300 were from users who paid for their criminal record on unofficial sites,” said the DGCCRF.
The DGCCRF has already written reports on a dozen organisations believed to be behind the creation of these sites, with the scammers often paying for a good SEO (search engine optimisation) which means they will appear higher up than the official websites themselves in Google searches.
A French judge has also been given three international cases to investigate.
Five French words to know
internaute – internet user
frauduleux – fraudulent
un site – website
un acte de naissance – birth certificate
un casier judiciare – criminal record