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.
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.
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.
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.
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.