Back in June, hackers managed to access over 2,000 French e-mail addresses. They then proceeded to change the passwords of connected tax declaration accounts in order to access bank details.
Noticing a weird pattern of password modification, France's Ministry of the Economy and Finance blocked access to these accounts and alerted involved taxpayers.
But as every time France enters a period of tax returns, scam numbers go through the roof.
The most widespread rip-off will come to you in the form of an e-mail from the French public finances service, who will gladly announce you qualify for tax rebate. To receive your money, you then have to pass on your bank details.
How to spot une arnaque aux impôts?
The fraudulent e-mail will usually contain the official header from the Ministry of the Economy and Finance, which is why most people fall for this kind of phishing.
But there a few details you can still double-check. Spelling mistakes such as missing accents are massive red flags. The sender's address also gives you an idea of the mail's origin. If this looks unofficial, it is because it is. If it does look official, check again.
You also want to avoid clicking on any link in the body of the mail, which will redirect you to shady websites. The best reaction is to delete this e-mail from your inbox altogether.
Other similar e-mails will ask you to call a given number instead of passing on your bank details, to ''remedy your fiscal situation'' by talking to a tax advisor. These are actually premium-rate numbers, you will not be speaking to a real counsellor and a simple call can cost you up to hundreds of euros.
Overall, French authorities recommend to never disclose any of your bank details via e-mail or telephone. They also will never, under any circumstances, ask for your bank details for internet transactions or repayments.
What to do if in doubt?
The only official numbers to call are the ones you can find on your official paperwork or on the government website dedicated to tax matters, impots.gouv.fr.
You can also ask for further information by calling the toll-free number implemented by the government – 0 805 805 817
If you want to report any suspicious e-mail you have received, you can do so on the internet-signalement-gouv.fr website.
Other ploys to look out for
Some scammers will go as far as calling you. Introducing themselves as a governmental tax advisers, they will offer you to reduce your taxes by subscribing to tax exemption products or to invest in real estate.
The Ministry of the Economy and Finance does not – ever – have recourse to cold calling of any type.
Scammers will also try to pose as your bank or your internet provider, so stay alert.
When shopping online, try sticking to verified websites, whose URL have a lock symbol before the address and begin with https. Another way to make sure you are on a safe website is the possibility of 3D Secure payment.
Earlier this summer, Nice authorities also warned holiday goers of scammers going around beaches with a chip and PIN machine to take advantage of contactless payment.
All they had to do was pose as vacationers, lay their beach towel close enough to people's bags and debit victims' cards.
What if you fall for it?
In case you ever fall for a credit card rip-off, you should call your bank as soon as you realise to cancel your card. Following this call, you'll have to send a registered letter to confirm your will to stop your card.
You should also report the fraud to the police.
You should know you are also entitled to reimbursement from your bank – if the fraud was carried out without your secret code, then the bank will reimburse you in full. If your card was stolen and scammers did use your secret code, a €50 excess will be deducted from the reimbursement total.These are usually a simple formality.
However, back in March 2018, the French Supreme Court ruled that a man had been grossly negligence after he passed on his bank details to a fraudulent website and was therefore, never repaid by his bank.