French police arrest two for bedbug scam of elderly

AFP/The Local France
AFP/The Local France - [email protected]
French police arrest two for bedbug scam of elderly
A bedbug treatment product. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

French police on Thursday said they had arrested two men for fraud after they sold bedbug pest control services to elderly people who did not need them, charging them hefty sums for the service.


The two men, operating in eastern France, telephoned their victims, usually women over 90, telling them there had been a bedbug infestation in their neighbourhood.

Preying on widespread fears of bedbugs that gripped France this autumn, they gained access to their targets' homes passing themselves off as health officials.

They then pretended to inoculate the space against bedbugs with an aerosol.

They also provided an ointment they said would keep the bugs away from human skin, which was in fact a simple eucalyptus-scented cream.


Accepting only credit card payments, they charged between €300 and €2,100 per visit.

Police investigated after receiving nine complaints for suspected fraud. In total, at least 48 people were scammed, authorities said.

Once alerted, police identified the suspects, put them on surveillance and arrested them as they were leaving the home of their latest victim in Strasbourg, eastern France.

In October, France shut several schools over what was thought to be an infestation of bedbugs and the blood-sucking insects were reportedly spotted in the Paris Metro, high-speed trains and at Paris's Charles De Gaulle Airport.

But the individual cases were not confirmed by the authorities and there was little evidence that bedbug cases has increased, or that Paris had a worse bedbug problem than other major cities.

Factcheck: Is there really a 'plague' of bedbugs in France?

This did not stop London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, from calling the alleged French bedbug invasion a "real source of concern", amid fears that the insects could spread to Britain.

Media in the UK and US ran lurid headlines about the supposed 'plague' of bedbugs in Paris and some of the coverage took on a racist tone, with suggestions that immigrants were responsible for spreading bedbugs.

In reality, bedbug cases have seen a steady rise around the globe over the past decade, linked with rising temperatures, more widespread tourism and a ban on some of the chemicals that were previously used to kill the bugs. 

READ ALSO How to not freak out over bedbugs in France


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