Fake French government sites scamming expats and citizens alike

Published:  25 Sep at 3 PM
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Tagged: France, Citizenship, Euro
The French government has issued a warning to citizens and expats over falling foul of fake administrative websites set up by scammers.

It’s estimated at least a million people every year are fooled by false government admin websites, leading to stolen funds and identity theft. Costs to victims total at around 1.5 million euros, according to France’s Ministry for Economics and Finance. The sites most at risk are those offering free government services such as criminal record checks, replacement birth certificates and similar requirements.

Advice given includes remembering that every genuine government website’s URL ends in ‘gouv.fr’ or’.fr’ at a minimum. However, even sites which have the correct URLs and are displaying France’s tricolour flag have been found to be non-legitimate, with the authorities recommending checking the full web address with the official list of French government admin sites. This can be found at service-public.fr., and should be used as a first line of research for other, possibly suspicious websites.

Some fake sites are found to be higher in search engine results that the genuine article, making checking even sites which seem reputable the best idea. Checking whether the information you request is offered for free by the French government should alert you to fake sites which are charging for the same service, and sites which ask for bank details or advance payment should be avoided.

According to the DGCCRF, a number of fake websites have been setting up regular direct debits from users who’ve authorised a small, one-off payment, Victims might not notice the small amount leaving their bank accounts on a monthly basis, but the amounts add up over time. In 2016, the agency received around 2,300 complaints from users who’d paid for a criminal record certificate but hadn’t received it, with around 300 applicants found to have used a counterfeit site and paid for the service without realising the site was a scam and the certificates are issued for free by the government.
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