Public in France warned over fake police stops and other coronavirus scams

As France's lockdown continues a warning has been issued about fake police officers stopping people on the street and demanding money in 'fines'.

Public in France warned over fake police stops and other coronavirus scams
Real police will not ask you to hand over cash in the street. Photo: AFP

The cruel trick is just one of a number of ways that thieves and fraudsters have been attempting to take advantage of the fear and confusion engendered by the coronavirus lockdown in France.

Fake police stops 

These have been reported in several areas of France including Brittany, Béziers and Yvelines – people have been approached on the street by people claiming to be police officers who have 'fined' them for breaking lockdown rules.

READ ALSO These are the rules of lockdown in France

It's true that there are currently 100,000 French police out currently enforcing lockdown rules and they can stop you on the street or at a road block. However if you are found to have broken rules you will be handed a ticket explaining how to pay your €135 fine. Real officers will not ask you to hand over cash on the street.

'Decontamination' agents

There have also been reports from the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of people trying to gain access to homes by claiming to be government agents carrying out a 'decontamination' of homes. The government currently has no such plans and you should not let any stranger into your home without seeing official ID.

Fake collections

The national crisis has seen thousands of people trying to help those in need – from organising food collections for the needy to setting up cagnottes (collections) for health workers.

While many of these are genuine, some are not so if possible give through a recognised charity or a community group.

READ ALSO France sees army of volunteers step up during coronavirus crisis

Phishing emails

Anyone in possession of an email address will currently be deluged with emails from companies that you bought a sweater from in 2011 explaining their coronavirus business strategy.

These are annoying but harmless, but there are scammers trying to take advance of the crisis by sending emails encouraging users to click on unknown links or share personal details.

Only access things like your bank, mortgage provider or tax records via the official site, do not click on links on emails, whoever they claim to be from. And don't share any personal information with someone you don't know.

The French government has set up various schemes to help workers, small businesses and the self employed. Access those schemes via the relevant government website, not through a link in an email.

Fake health advice

There is a lot of this circulating on social media, WhatsApp and email, usually purporting to be from someone who works in healthcare and often forwarded by friends and relatives who have not realised it is fake.

Some of these begin with perfectly legitimate health advice about coronavirus and staying safe, before moving on to dangerous and incorrect theories – including that drinking hot drinks and being out in the sun prevents or cures coronavirus.

Only accept health advice from reputable news sites or from government or World Health Organisation sources.

The French government's coronavirus website can be found here.


Member comments

  1. Just after the lockdown started I got a phone call from a young French woman sounding very plausible, saying she was ringing on behalf of the government following the decree from M. Macron, and that they were needing to send out certificates to everybody to entitle you to refunds if you had to have food or medication delivered to your door because of being in isolation. She asked me for my birthdate, mobile phone number, and then for my IBAN number so that they could reimburse me if the time came. I refused to give any bank details, she became exasperated and then called her manager, a man, who was very impatient with me and insisted I should give my IBAN number immediately – said they were risking their lives for me by going in to work while I got to isolate safely at home, told me they weren’t asking for my bank card details only my IBAN number, and that I was wasting their time and that they had thousands of calls to make. I didn’t know what to do, it could have been something from the government, I didn’t know, but when I still said I was concerned about giving any bank details he was very annoyed, said he would close my dossier and hung up on me. I rang the local Mairie and the lady told me that no government department would EVER ask for bank details over the phone and it was probably a scam. I just wanted to flag this up and see if anyone else had experienced this scam. It was very upsetting.

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Italian killer with mafia links arrested in France after 16 years on the run

A convicted murderer linked to one of Italy's most powerful mafia organisations was arrested on Thursday in central France, Interpol said.

Italian killer with mafia links arrested in France after 16 years on the run

Edgardo Greco, 63, is suspected of belonging to the notorious ‘Ndrangheta, a powerful mafia organisation in Calabria, southern Italy.

He is wanted in Italy to serve a life sentence for the murders of Stefano and Giuseppe Bartolomeo, and accused of the attempted murder of Emiliano Mosciaro “as part of a mafia war between the Pino Sena and Perna Pranno gangs that marked the early 1990s”, Interpol said.

The Bartolomeo brothers were beaten to death with iron bars in a fish warehouse, Italian police said.

Greco’s arrest in central France came with help for Italy and France from the “Cooperation against ‘Ndrangheta Project” (I-CAN) run by Interpol, which facilitates police cooperation between its 195 member states.

READ ALSO: Italian police seize €250 million and arrest 56 in latest mafia blitz

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi, quoted in Interpol’s statement, said the arrests demonstrated his country’s commitment to “fighting all forms of organised crime and locating dangerous fugitives”.

The ‘Ndrangheta is considered Italy’s most extensive and powerful mafia group, Interpol said, operating worldwide and with strong ties to the trade in cocaine bound for Europe from South America

I-CAN’s job is help raise awareness of ‘Ndrangheta and their modus operandi, sharing police information to dismantle their networks and operations, the agency said.

The arrest of Greco, who worked in the evenings in a pizza restaurant under an assumed named according to Italian media, came a week after Italian police said it had dismantled a ‘Ndrangheta mafia ring dominating a large area of southern Calabria and seized assets exceeding 250 million euros.

Fifty-six people, many already in prison, were put under criminal investigation for a series of crimes including mafia-related conspiracy, extortion, kidnapping, bribery and possession of weapons, police and prosecutors said.

The arrest of Greco comes just over two weeks after Italian police arrested one of the most notorious bosses of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra mafia, Matteo Messina Denaro, who had been on the run for 30 years.

The 60-year-old was arrested after visiting a health clinic where he was being treated in the Sicilian capital Palermo