Fraud comes in all shapes and sizes, but one of the most stressful types to deal with is bank card fraud.
Despite the Banque de France stating bank card fraud is at the lowest levels recorded (under 0.2% of bank account holders reported fraudulent activity in 2021), a number of schemes and scams are still catching people out.
This is on top of complaints by France’s payment methods security observatory, Observatoire de la sécurité des moyens de paiement, that say French banks “do not respect the spirit of the regulation,” when offering refunds to customers affected by fraudulent activity on their card.
To help combat the threat of fraud, here are five tips to protect yourself in France. We also provide information on what to do when your account has been compromised.
1. Do not give out your information or leave a paper trail
This tip may seem obvious, but it can all too quickly be forgotten in a stressful situation.
Your bank manager or somebody from your bank’s customer service team will never ask you for your account details (such as password) over the phone after contacting you, and you should never give this information to anybody who asks.
You should also avoid leaving a paper trail of this information – this includes both written by hand (in a notebook or Post-it note) and digital (on your phone or a document on your computer).
If possible, you should use a distinct and complex password for your bank account – do not make it the same as other passwords you use for different accounts, or an easy-to-guess password containing simple information about yourself that most people could easily find out.
This is also true for PIN – pick a code people will not know (for example, one that does not use your birth date).
2. Opt-in to more secure authentication methods
Since spring 2021, some banks in France have introduced ‘strong’ authentication, which adds an extra layer of security when making purchases, particularly online.
These include having to enter a code through your banking app or using biometrics (like a fingerprint scan) to confirm a purchase, usually within five or ten minutes of initiating it.
Other methods include a one-time text message with an authentication code to enter (if you do not have a smartphone with your bank’s app) or a special USB ‘key’ that implements a one-time code when making a purchase.
If your bank offers any of these additional security measures, you should take advantage of them, because even when your card information is entered online for a purchase, this additional authentication can only be provided by yourself (or someone who knows your code/has your device).
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3. Do not use public Wi-Fi or computers to make online purchases
You should only make purchases online when connected to the Wi-Fi in your own home, or the home of a person you trust.
Connecting to publically available Wi-Fi, even those hosted by a well-known shop or public area, increases the risk of others being able to access this sensitive information.
This is the same for computers at libraries, work, schools and universities or internet cafés, which see lots of different people use the same computer.
If you forget to log out of your account, or accidentally save your card information to a website or internet browser, people will have easy access to all of your information.
You should also double-check that all websites you purchase from are official and secure.
In the case of the latter, it may be more difficult to prove you were a victim of fraud and not of your own negligence, if there are obvious mistakes on the website (spelling errors, poor-quality images etc).
Read also: Victims of bank fraud to be more easily reimbursed in France
4. Beware of ‘spoofing’ scams
This is a relatively new scam, similar to ‘phishing’ scams of the past.
A spoofing scam sees a person pose as somebody from your bank’s financial fraud team, telling you that somebody is trying to use your account and to cancel the fraudulent transaction, you have to provide your bank card PIN to them (the information the ‘fraudster’ does not have) to prove you are the true owner of the account.
During the confusion and potential fear of losing money, many people give over the code.
The person calling you, however, is, of course, the scammer and will use your pin to process fraudulent transactions themselves.
This scam can work particularly well because the person calling you will have access to a lot of personal information about you (name, date of birth, potentially your address and even your bank account number), making them seem largely official, and calls into question how well banks protect the private information of their users.
Read also: Online and text scams: France plans warning system to prevent fraud
5. Keep up to date with official information from your bank
You should regularly check your bank’s social media and news pages, to see what new additions are being made to their services, as these may include additional security measures you can opt into.
On top of this, they will also make announcements of new scams that are making the rounds – meaning you are more well-informed in the case a fraudster tries to scam you.
Public bodies in France such as the Fédération bancaire française may also run advertising campaigns informing people of new anti-fraud measures or popular current scams.
Read also: Do second home owners in France need a French bank account?
What can I do in the event of bank card fraud?
If you have fallen victim to bank fraud, you should make sure to change all your bank account details immediately – get a new bank card with a new account number, security code and PIN, alongside changing the password to access your bank account.
On top of this, you can request a refund for all fraudulent transactions, and your bank is required to refund you, both if your card was used for internet purchases or via ‘contactless’ transactions (where the PIN is not needed).
Your bank is required to immediately give you a refund for all fraudulent transactions unless they can prove you are committing fraud yourself by requesting a refund for a valid purchase – however, they can (and usually do) charge you up to €50 for providing a refund.
In some cases, your bank will request you send an official complaint to the police or gendarmes before granting you a refund, but this is not always necessary to do.
Furthermore, these types of complaints are often thrown out without further action by the services, as they are overwhelmed by the number of complaints they receive, says consumer rights watchdog UFC Que-Choisir
Many banks will try to pass the buck to you when falling victim to a ‘phishing’ or ‘spoofing’ scam, saying you should have recognised that the call was fraudulent and your own negligence was the cause of the problem.
It is up to the bank however to prove the negligence of the person scammed, and if taken to court it is up to a judge to decide this.
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