France created the Compte Personnel de Formation (CPF) system back in 2015.
The idea is simple. All employees in France are able to access money each year for free professional training (€800 for unskilled workers, €500 for full-time, skilled workers).
The money can be for all sorts of professional development or entrepreneurship courses, but of particular use to foreigners it can also be used for driving lessons or French-language lessons.
All you need is a social security number to claim your allowance.
Since the creation of a highly accessible app in 2019, more than 3 million people have accessed their allowance to participate in free training of one kind or another. A total of around 35 million people have accounts waiting to be tapped into. There is more than €53 billion worth of training credit sitting dormant in the system – a figure that will only increase with time.
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Scammers and marketing companies have caught wind of this. In recent weeks, SMS messages warning people that they would lose their allowance and urging them to sign up to training courses have become increasingly frequent. These messages often contain fraudulent links asking recipients to enter their personal details onto dodgy websites.
Recipients are also often bombarded by phone calls and emails – largely from call centres in sub-Saharan Africa and Israel, subcontracted by the private training scheme providers, according to an investigation by Le Parisien.
Other messages are more malicious, sent by scammers to harvest personal data – or to draw money from CPF accounts, by having them pay into fake training schemes.
39 official accusations have been levelled against training organisations over the past two years – a tiny proportion of the 25,000 organisations in total. A financial crime unit within the police is now monitoring CPF closely and the government has promised to pass a law to stop this kind of aggressive marketing around the scheme, which has had its reputation tainted.
What to do if you are targeted
There are some important steps to take if you receive SMS messages, calls and emails urging you to take action.
- Don’t pick up. Block the number.
- Flag the issue. The CPF website and the application provide the option to flag problematic practices.
- Only ask for training from certified training centres or online training providers listed on the app and website. Bad organisations are systematically removed from online listings
- Only access your CPF account either through the app (Mon CPF) or through the official website – www.moncompteformation.gouv.fr
For more information on how to sign up and what to use the training budget for, click here.