As if to prove the validity of the above statement, yesterday I was contacted by a friend - the owner of a small business in rural France - who had just received a worrying telephone call from a legally-registered Paris-based company.
A quick Google-search revealed that this call was the initial approach in a classic advance-fee fraud and that French government agencies have been warning business owners not to fall for it and inviting those approached to file complaints.
Classically, part of the fairy story being peddled, is true.
A couple of years ago, legislation was enacted in France which made the owners/operators of certain businesses (open to the public) responsible for ensuring that the disabled (particularly wheelchair-bound persons) have access to their premises (via: ramps, wide doors, elevators, etc.) and have other specially adapted facilities provided for them (toilets, parking, floor surfaces, etc.). At this time, the French business owners/operators in question were required to confirm to local government agencies that their premises were either already in compliance with the new legislation, or file a technical report, and/or make planning applications, proving that they would soon be in compliance.
Obviously, the list of common-sense exemptions to the new French disabled-access legislation, is vast. However, many small business owners remain unaware of its existence, let alone of their obligations to it (if any). Consequently, the legislation has spawned an insidious advance-fee fraud which involves agents of front-companies contacting French business owner/operators by phone and attempting to convince them that:
- they are not in compliance with the new disabled-access legislation.
- French government officials will soon be visiting their premises to conduct an inspection.
- they must immediately file a comprehensive technical report, and/or make planning applications, with local government agencies to avoid all risk of financial penalties up to 45 000 Euros.
The crook who called my friend yesterday recited the above threatening bullshit and left a name and telephone number after offering to help with compiling a disabled access technical report in exchange for 700 Euros. This person also falsely-implied that the 700 Euro payment comprised a mandatory handling-charge to French government agencies.
It almost goes without saying that the next step in the fraud comprises obtaining the intended victim's bank details.
This morning, I called the 09 (unidentifiable) French telephone number which had been given to my friend and discovered a highly-sophisticated operation complete with an official-sounding recording repeating elements of the fairy story being peddled. I was then automatically put through to an inflexible young woman who (suspiciously) knew (or guessed) the name of the business owner on whose behalf I was calling (even though I specifically didn't mention it), but who refused to identify herself. She did not appreciate my blunt reaction to the fraud. This young woman posed as an innocent victim of false accusations, even though I referred her to French government Websites describing her company's unlawful modus operandi and warning the public.
In the end, this robotic liar hung up after arrogantly telling me that I was blocking her company's phone lines and preventing her, and her colleagues, from working.
This afternoon, a French government official confirmed that in the first few days of 2017, hundreds of new complaints have been logged about this type of fraud and that numerous front-companies are involved.
David Brear (copyright 2017)