It’s unfortunately a fact of life in France to regularly receive scam emails, texts or calls purporting to be from the bank, your energy supplier, La Poste, Ameli, the tax office or any number of legitimate operators. Even law enforcement bodies have been copied and used in scams.
Over the years, we’ve reported regularly on online scams.
The standard advice to avoid falling victim to these criminal attempts to steal personal information involves being ever-vigilant by carefully checking any emails, texts, or notifications for errors or inconsistencies which may reveal its fraudulent nature – such as the address of the sender, or weird typography, poor spelling.
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If in doubt, the advice runs, do not click any links, and remember you can always call the organisation from which the message purports to originate to check whether they really have tried to contact you.
And that’s all good advice.
But some of the scams appear very convincing and people do fall for them – if you’re busy or distracted it’s all too easy to click on a link without really thinking.
What can you do then?
If you have shared your bank details, you should contact your bank as soon as possible. Be honest, tell them you think you have been the victim of a scam and they will help you. You can cancel your card, and block unauthorised withdrawals.
It all takes a bit of time, sorting out a new card and so on, but safeguarding your money means criminals can’t empty your account.
If you haven’t shared your bank details then things are less urgent, but there are still steps that you can take to protect your personal data.
French data protection laws mean that if your details have been compromised as part of a hack, you have to be informed, so from time to time you might get a scary-sounding letter telling you that some of your details were compromised, usually as part of a hack of a big company or government database.
The best place to get advice is the government’s anti-scam website (www.cybermalveillance.gouv.fr).
The site has a ‘diagnostic’ where you can fill in a form explaining what has happened to you, and it will then offer tailored advice depending on the kind of scam you have fallen victim to.
It can also help find a local, approved, professional if you need any additional help – though you may be charged for that.
Depending on the type of scam, the advice may include going to the police or gendarmerie to file a formal complaint. This is up to you, but if you’re nervous of trying to navigate the policing system, you can call victim support service France Victimes on 116 006 (freephone) for help.
You can also report online scams or illegal content on the internet at Pharos, the government’s official portal for reporting illegal internet content.
The most common scam types are via email, text or phone call, with the scammers targeting your personal data.
But there are people who try out in-person scams to relieve you of your cash too, and these are particularly common in tourist hotspots.
In addition to the standard pickpockets, tourist sites are often infested with tricksters running fake games, selling counterfeit goods or even women flashing their breasts to distract men who are using ATMs (yes, that does happen).