Expat drivers in France warned to avoid scams and thieves

Expat drivers in France warned to avoid scams and thieves

Expat drivers in France warned to avoid scams and thieves

For expats and tourists travelling in France this summer season, the risk of being scammed or robbed on the journey is increasing.

For newly-arrived British expats in France, driving can be a pleasure once they’ve mastered positioning their vehicles on the right side of the road! However, risks posed by crooks and scammers can be a problem, especially during the holiday season. Highway robbers used to be very common until several police crackdowns took effect, but media reports suggest the bad guys are back and getting smarter.

The best known scam to date is known as the ‘Irish Swindle’, now playing out in service stations across France’s southwest and southeastern regions. Drivers are approached by an English-speaking man, his wife and children with a sad tale involving the loss of their UK passports, credit cards and cash. The man asks for a loan to help him and the family get home, promising to return the cash once they’re safely back in the UK and allowing photos of himself and his car. Once he’s got the cash, he’ll message his benefactors for a few days, then cuts off all communication.

Another scam plays out on the roadside near Chalus in Haute-Vienne prefecture, and involves a roadside scene set up to resemble an accident, thus persuading people to stop and offer help. A younger man stands near two cars waving down passing traffic until one stops. In broken English, the scammer explains he’s run out of fuel, his Romanian credit card doesn’t work and he only has Romanian currency. He persuades his mark to exchange euros for his currency which, of course, is counterfeit.
Another scam usually targets elderly drivers, many of whom are expats unaware of the risks of stopping for strangers on the roadside. This is new and apparently effective, as the scammer accuses drivers of damaging his car’s side view mirror and insists on cash rather than insurance details.

Last summer, one very determined organised crime gang specialised in targeting expats and tourists unaware of French police protocols. The sight of official-seeming uniforms, flashing blue lights and red police armbands easily persuaded foreign drivers to pull over and allow full-on searches of their cars. Any valuables such as mobile phones, the contents of purses and handbags and often the keys to the car were soon removed, leaving victims with no way of reporting the gang until they’re long gone. One thing’s for sure in that newly arrived British expats should never, ever stop for anyone on French roads, especially during the tourist season.

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