When you move to a foreign country, all you can think about is the excitement and the joy of starting a new chapter of your life.
There are those that have the American dream and there are those that have the French dream, which might be to come and live in a traditional Haussmanian building, go down for a croissant for breakfast, and read a book by the Seine. How lovely, right?
Overwhelmed by the joyful emotions of moving to France, you may tend to forget that France, like any other country, has its fraudsters, and their scams may be different than any other scams you’ve seen in the U.S.
While in in a foreign country, and unfamiliar with the scams and overwhelmed with the panic of doing something wrong in a foreign country, you might easily push you in the fraudsters’ trap.
But do not worry, at The American in Paris, we’ve got you covered! Below are a few of the most common scams in France and how to avoid them.
1. The ANTAI Scam : Overdue Parking Ticket Scam
This is one of the most familiar scams, in which you will receive an email or SMS from what appears to be the official government service dedicated to the treatment of parking tickets.
They will say that you have an overdue parking ticket that wasn’t paid and for which you have a penalty.
While scammers are getting better and better at replicating official emails, the first step is to click on the sender email address and if it doesn’t end with .gouv.fr then you can report it as spam immediately.
Second of all, the ANTAI service never sends citizens or residents emails to mention that a parking ticket payment is long overdue.
The only means of communication is via mail to your home address only.
So when you receive an email or sms from ANTAI, do not worry, it is probably a scam.
If you think you may actually have an unpaid parking ticket, the safest way is to contact 08 06 20 30 40 where an official government operator will give you all the information you need.
2. The Social Security Scam : the Ameli Fraud to Steal Your Personal Data
When you move to France, you will likely subscribe to the Social Security and Health service, Ameli.
Once you are well settled, they will provide you with a carte vitale which is a health insurance card that you can use when you go to your doctors’ appointments to be reimbursed a percentage of the fee, which is paid for by the French government (powered by your taxes, hence it’s not now and never will be “free”).
Your social security number is unique and it is a way to identify you. Never ever communicate this number to anyone unless it’s your doctor or your employer.
Sometimes, you may receive text messages or emails from what appears to be the Ameli service, saying that you are about to receive reimbursement for medical fees following a doctor’s appointment.
Even if you relate to this because you have indeed been to the doctor’s recently, never click on the link because it will lead to a page intended to steal your personal data.
In any case, if you have been to the doctor and you are waiting for a reimbursement, it will automatically take place on your bank account and you will see a statement of account in your personal space on the Ameli website, in the documents tab.
3. The Smoke Detector Scam or the Garbage Collector Scam
Sometimes, you may have people ring your door bell and pretend they are official workers at the national electricity provider or working as garbage collectors, to access your building.
The only way to know if these people are official is if they wear uniforms, provide a badge with their credentials or if an “avis de passage” is left in the hallway of your building prior to their visit or in your mailbox, where the electricity provider or the city hall announce you that they need access to your building or your apartment.
There are many bank holidays in France approaching summer and during the month of August, everyone goes on holiday so cities like Paris are empty.
This is the perfect occasion for scammers to visit buildings and identify potential apartments where they can break in and commit burglaries.
The best advice we can give if someone rings the bell and pretends to be from Electricité de France or a garbage collector, is to ask for their credentials if you have never received an avis de passage.
However, beware because they may be able to provide a fake badge or fake credentials to lead you into error.
The safest way to know if this is a legitimate visit is whether you have been alerted by your neighbors or if you have received a letter beforehand.
Official agents never show up unannounced. This is France, after all. 🙂
4. CPF Credits : the « Compte Personnel de Formation » Scam
In France, under some conditions and provided you have done part of your upper education in France, the government gives you credits that you can use to take courses in a specific field and to educate yourself.
This scam can take place via phone, email or text message, where a fake agent will contact you and tell you that you have many credits left in your account to sign up for courses.
They will push you to click on a link where you can provide your bank credentials to “claim your credits.”
Never provide your bank credentials and information to anyone.
5. The Petition Scam While Walking French Streets
In very touristy neighborhoods, you may be approached by people claiming they work for an association and that they need your name, signature and address to have your support for a specific cause.
They insist a lot and sometimes are very persuasive which can easily make you fall in the trap, especially if you grant importance to the cause they pretend to defend.
NEVER provide your information since they will use it to steal your identity or find your address and potentially rob your home.
The only official associations always wear uniforms (RED CROSS, Médecins du monde for example…) and they always have a badge and official credentials.
6. The Gold Ring Scam
In very touristy places as well, sometimes you may have a woman come up to you and say she found a gold ring or bracelet on the floor and asking whether it is yours.
While you will obviously refuse because you do not recognize the jewel, they will attempt to sell it you at a high price.
It is probably a fake piece of jewelry that they acquired for a bargain price so do not fall in the trap of buying it from them at an exaggerated price.
8. The Sacré Coeur Bracelet Scam
In Paris, there is a very famous basilica in the 18th District, called Sacré Coeur.
There, you have some groups of men that do a bracelet scam. One of them will come up to you and show you that he can braid a bracelet on your hand, without mentioning a price or anything.
Do not give up and fall in the trap and move along. Once they finish the bracelet which is braided on your hand, they will announce you a very high price. When you refuse to pay the price, they will call the other men in the group which will harass you until you pay or even worse, attack you or rob you if you refuse.
9. The Tuk Tuk Scam
In touristy crowded places, there are drivers in tuk tuk cars similar to those you see in Vietnam that propose you to take a tour in the most emblematic places of the city.
They have some cheap prices such as 10-15 euros per ride displayed on the windshield of their truck to lure you in their truck.
Once you finish the ride, they will charge an exaggerated amount of 50 euros. If you dispute this and say it does not align with the amount on the windshield, they will show you the paper where you can find the highly exaggerated amounts written in very small font, invisible to the human eye or on the back of the paper.
Be careful since they can get very aggressive if you refuse to pay.
The safest way to visit the city is by the big city bus if you seek a guided tour or by regular public transportation where the ticket costs two euros only.
The best advice we can give you is to not talk to anyone in very crowded areas and also to be very safe in the subway since there are many robberies of cellphones if you do not pay attention.
10. The Postage/UPS scam
If you get an SMS telling you that you need to pick up a package or pay for customs duties on a package, it’s probably a scam.
You will almost always get an email from UPS when duties have to be paid and you go to the UPS website to handle that.
As for La Poste, if there are duties to be paid, you will settle those at your post office, not via SMS.
There are probably other scams but these are the most widespread ones. And while this might be discouraging, remember that tens of millions of people visit France every year, and these bad actors are attracted to the least careful of those visitors. Instead of lamenting human nature, simply be more vigilant, particularly in crowded situations.
If you think you may be a victim of a scam but you are unsure of it, do not hesitate to refer to the official website of the French government where they have a list of all the scams and even a service where you can report a scam.
Be safe and in any case, bienvenue en France dear friends!