What is spam?
Spam refers to unsolicited calls or messages sent to a telephone line or to email address. It may be commercial, an unsolicited cold call offering a deal on health insurance for example, or fraudulent.
Fraudulent spam generally falls under one of the following two practices:
- To extract money directly;
- To steal personal data, such as credit card numbers or usernames, or passwords for connection to a website (known as phishing).
But, whether a call is commercial or fraudulent, there are steps you can take to stop them if you do not want to receive them.
Spam SMS messages
Simply deleting the message will not stop whoever is at the other end from trying again later.
For something more definitive, you can reply to the number - as long as it is a five-digit one beginning with 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8, with a simple message: STOP.
Reputable businesses will respect your instruction to be removed from their database of numbers.
Similarly, if you send the word CONTACT to the sender, they should text you their customer service phone number. Both the STOP and CONTACT message will cost you the price of a standard text.
You may prefer not to engage with the original text message. In which case, you can forward it to the official Spam SMS service on 33700, and they will follow up on your behalf.
The service states that the operators follow up reports to this number with companies who sent the spam.
The Spam SMS service should also be a first point of contact if you suspect a spam message is fraudulent. You can also file a complaint with the police and notify the relevant Departmental Directorate of Population Protection (DDPP).
You can also report spam emails at the website signal.spam.fr.
And if you spot a phishing or other type of online scam, you can report it to the government’s cybermalveillance.gouv.fr platform.
If you receive an unwanted voice message, whether it is fraudulent or not, you can notify Spam SMS, on the same number, 33700. This time send the message SPAM VOCAL followed by the number that left the message.
READ ALSO: Warning: 6 of the most common scams in France to watch out for
There is some good news on this front - New rules came into force on March 1st, limiting the hours in which canvassing calls can be made (no calls at weekends, lunchtime, or after 8pm), and on the number of times businesses can call. Basically, if they call, tell them you don’t want to be canvassed, and they will have to wait two months before trying again.
Otherwise, commercial cold calls are usually not illegal in France, but companies can incur fines of up to €75,000 if they continue to phone anyone who has signed up to the government-backed free-to-use Bloctel service.
It allows people to have their landline or mobile phone number removed from commercially-available telephone lists. In theory, companies should consult Bloctel lists before starting call campaigns, and scrub numbers that are on it.
Sadly, Bloctel is not as effective as it could be, in part because it requires active participation from users, who are asked to flag-up the numbers of unsolicited callers - and that process is longer and more complicated than it needs to be.
Still, consumer watchdog UFC-Que Choisir recommends signing up, because it is better than not being on the list.
Meanwhile, all phone operators in France are obliged to offer a free liste rouge, where your number will not be published in a directory or given out for commercial or other reasons.
Another, the liste orange, means they will not pass on numbers for marketing calls but they will appear in directories.
It is important to note, however, this will not stop unwanted calls if you then give your number to commercial outlets – for example, when you sign up for a fidelity card. Nor will it prevent fraudulent calls.
Ultimately, the easiest way to keep calls to a minimum is to limit the people you give your phone number to.
How you can avoid falling victim to these scams
In most cases, criminals pretend to represent official companies to try and steal your details.
If links in SMS messages send you to websites, always check these addresses to ensure they are the official web addresses of these companies.
READ MORE: French government to launch anti-scam filter
Do not open any attachments on a text message unless you know and trust the source. Even then, take a second to check whether the message appears genuine. If it doesn't read like something the sender would usually send, be wary. The attachment may contain malware that could infect your device.
If you spot a phishing or other type of online scam, you can report it to the government’s cybermalveillance.gouv.fr platform.
What you can do if you are the victim of a scam
Under certain conditions, banks are obliged to refund money paid for goods and services that are not provided. Full details of the rétrofacturation scheme are available here.
France operates a free Info Escroqueries telephone service on 0 805 805 817 (Monday-Friday 9am – 6.30pm) to allow people to report phone scams directly to police.
Consumer associations can also offer help and advice. You can find the offices of one near you via this link from the Institut national de la consommation (National Consumers’ Institute).
What happens of you fall victim?
All may not be lost. Under certain conditions, banks are obliged to refund money paid for goods and services that are not provided. Full details of the chargeback – or rétrofacturation – scheme are available here.