What you can do in France to stop fraudulent and spam phone calls and texts

What you can do in France to stop fraudulent and spam phone calls and texts
Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP
France is no different. Nuisance telephone calls or text messages, sometimes from companies touting for business, sometimes from criminals trying to trick you into revealing personal or financial information, are infuriating. But there are things you can do to stop them.

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.

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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.

Spam voicemail

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: The internet and phone scams to watch out for in France in 2021

Unwanted calls

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.

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. You can also report 

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.


Member comments

  1. I do not know why the powers that be do not come down on spammers like a ton of bricks. I have not met any one, anywhere, who enjoys or likes spam, or other forms of cold calling. Using my private telephone number is an ivasion of my privacy and can cost money and always time.
    It’s time the electorate told the politians to get their fingers out and do something that genuinely hurts spammers (provide you can find ’em of course).

  2. We bought a call blocker from Amazon – never answer the phone and just press the °block” button. In a year, we are already up to over 500 blocked calls! Bloctel are a waste of space. Used to get at least 15 cold calls a day, now only 2 or 3..

  3. I had these spam calls on my landline for years. Tried a lot and even changed my number once, but somehow I never got peace. I am slowly shifting completely away from landline to mobile since only a few family members use it to call me. Way more silence already. Now and then I get an unknown caller on mobile too, but I check the number then on tellows and know whether to call back or block it.

  4. “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. ”

    Is the last thing you should do. It’s the same with email spam. As soon as you reply they know the address or number is “live”.

    1. Actually, spam texts/emails are for advertising/informational purposes, and sending STOP is effective with a lot of businesses, just like asking to be unsubscribed from a mailing list is also successful. Scam is another story.

      1. You do realise that the calls, texts and emails are mostly generated by machines? Sending STOP might stop some but certainly does not work for the majority. As soon as one replies in anyway it tells the machine that the number or address is active. One way to try and stop email spam is to route your address through Gmail their spam blockers are effective or use the filters your domain name holder supplies.

  5. Bloctel did not do anything to reduce the volume of spam calls to our landline. What worked in the end was getting rid of the landline…

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