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Discussion Starter #1
I'm sure none of the streetwise members of this forum would be taken in by this con, but just in case... ;)

A while back in the local Intermarché shopping mall - hence, one assumes, present with the permission of the landlord - I was stopped by an attractive young lady offering free entries into a prize draw - the lucky winner taking home a free water softener worth 2,800 euros. It was early in the morning, pre-first coffee time of day, and so I unthinkingly filled out the form - name and address, phone number. A warning bell tinkled distantly when the young lady asked if I had ever considered getting a water softener. Anyway I answered yes, as I have recently been landed with a massive bill for the descaling of the water tank in my boiler, all the gunge having reduced the hot water pressure to virtually zero.

Second warning bells tinkled even more faintly, when I realised I'd been given no receipt for my 'prize draw' entry. Still I've never won anything in my life, so I soon forgot about it.

Yesterday the phone goes first thing, and a charming lady announces that I am the lucky winner. Not only had I won the water softener, but there was free installation as well. When would I like their technician to call round to check out the installation and see what was needed? An appointment was made, and for a minute or two after the call I was under the illusion that I really had won something - until my brain clicked into gear (caffeine needed), and I decided to check out how this con worked. I knew it had to be a scam, but forewarned is forearmed.

Thanks be to Google, within minutes I was reading of several people, on French language forums, who had been conned... or come close. Apparently it works along the following lines:

The impression of being above board is conveyed first of all by the location of the first contact. A shopping mall, a big exhibition centre, that sort of thing. Rarely is the approach made in the street. At this time the salesperson establishes whether you actually might need a water softener (quite a reasonable question, in the circumstances, given the nature of the prize). Another question you are asked is whether you own the property where you live.

After a reasonable period of time, all entrants into the 'draw' receive a call, announcing they are winners. An appointment is made for the visit from the so-called 'technician'.

Who then turns up at your door? A cravated salesman or two, complete with masses of paperwork. The 2,800 euro (allegedly) piece of equipment is indeed free. The installation is indeed free. But then over an hour or more of intense technical waffle, geared to reduce the intended victim of the scam to a state of bemused exhaustion, they ask you to sign a compulsory maintenance contract, for a minimum term. All manner of techniques, some bordering on the illegal, are used to convince you that this is indeed a requirement under the law. Of course it is not - but without this signature, the scam has failed. For the inflated, exorbitant sum of x hundred euros a year for ten years, you are in fact paying for a piece of equipment many times over that is likely worth a fraction of the alleged 2,800 euros. If it's worth as much as 1,000 euros I would be surprised. And by the time the contract is up, you'll have paid many times that in 'maintenance' charges.

The 'technician' couldn't find us today. After driving around for 45 minutes, it finally dawned on him to telephone to say that he was lost. I told him it was too late by then, so he had had a wasted journey. He's supposed to call to make another appointment. I'm hesitating - should I tell him I know about the scam and that he hasn't a hope in hell of it working on me, or should I let him keep the appointment and then tell him face to face what I think of their con. Haven't decided yet!
 

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We constantly get telemarketing calls saying that wouldn't we like being entered in a draw for some wonderful prizes - or even sometimes that we've "won" something to be confirmed when a representative of the company makes their visit. I always tell them I'm not interested, which usually surprises them.

Then again, we've disconnected our house fixed line because all we ever received on it were telemarketing calls.

When the technician calls, you should suddenly "forget" all the French you ever knew. Or claim the person who filled out the form is dead or just moved to another country or something.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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I've had a similar experience involving treating the wood joists etc and insulation under the guise of being "energy efficient", quoting that they were working with EDF and would be able to give grants etc for remedial treatment. They gave me a phone number (an 06 number) to check & verify.

I phoned EDF to ask if anyone on their behalf was acting in such capacity in this area. They knew nothing about it.

When the "specialists" phoned again, I cancelled the appointment; they asked why; I said it was because I had been unable to confirm their credentials.

I haven't heard anything since.

France is not immune to scams. Be vigilant.

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Discussion Starter #4
Well, what I'd do is have a lot of fun at his expense.

Fix an appointment, and have a froggy mate present in his best suit and briefcase mode. Introduce him as your "legislative representative" - it's near enough to 'legal representative' for Mr Scam to jump to the obvious but wrong conclusion, and far enough away for it to be plausibly deniable . Get yer mate to take lots of notes, and really get him to hammer the scammer on all the maintenance angles. Ask for the relevant section of the CC every time he tells you summat is 'obligatoire'.

Then, if he still tries to present you with a paper to sign, point to the semi-hidden tape recorder on the sideboard and tell him 'you'll review the conversation and that you'll consider your next move carefully, and can he please leave the paperwork.'

I doubt that he will leave anything behind as he sprints for his car......
 
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Discussion Starter #5
I'm tempted MTC :)

Has anyone ever had the fire extinguisher scam tried on them, by the way? There are a lot of similarities...
 
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Discussion Starter #7
Ho Yus, some bright young thing arrived whilst we were sitting around doing nothing one summers day, and demanded to know where our fire extinguishers were, because we 'had' to have them. I ended up telling him to get back in his car before I set fire to it, thereby giving me the chance to prove that we had the 'required' equipment.

However, we DID almost get caught on the renewable-energy scam. €22K-worth of aerothermie gear would have been mine if I hadn't stood on my hind legs at the last minute and got a solicitor to write a letter to the suppliers telling them to, er, do the other thing. Best €125 we ever spent on heating teh house :D

Oh, I have no objection to buying the kit, but I'll do so at a time and price of my choosing, thank'ee.....
 

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Interesting 'bout fire extinguishers ...

Have just bought some letting chalets in Corsica (home of summer forest fires etc etc), fully furnished & equipped. Was astonished to find "fully" included neither fire extinguisher nor first aid kit.

Is there something I should know about French legislation re those things re letting gites ?

Hils
 
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Ok I haven't read the legislation for some time, but some years ago the scam involved hard selling of extinguishers allegedly to conform with house insurance requirements - entirely fictitious as far as my insurance policy goes. I once heard of some policies that offered special premiums if you provided evidence of regularly maintained extinguishers on the premises - but the validity of a policy isn't dependent on the possession of fire extinguishers, as far as I know. Not for private residences anyway.

Another aspect of the scam is the suggestion that the extinguishers require regular maintenance under law to be acceptable for insurance purposes. This allows to scammers to sell you not only an overpriced product, but also a maintenance contract for some silly rate.

French legislation (maintenance) as far as I know only covers the powder or foam type for electrical fires, not the water variety. Plus CO2 extinguishers have to be replaced every 10 years, even if never used.

Anyway some bona fide big store sellers will provide a sensibly priced maintenance option in addition to a good initial price for the product. The scam isn't in selling you something you don't need - obviously it's a good idea to take precautions. The con is in selling you something for several hundred euros that can be bought on the web for 50 or 60 euros, and then tricking you into believing that annual - or even six-monthly - maintenance is required by law, and to charge several hundred more euros for this every year. And even in one reported case I read about recently, to con an elderly person into replacing her (unused) extinguishers every year with new ones :(
 
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Hils, I looked into this for our gite and found no 'minimum requirement'.
 

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scams are plentyfull

Security equipments, extinguishers, water treatment, insect fumigation, roof/wall/bed insulation, phone and internet, VOIP, kitchen equipments, school aid, ....

The people in charge of controlling these scams and enforcing regulations have almost disappeared (Direction de la concurence et de la repression des fraudes) although they do have a web site in you need: DGCCRF : Accueil général

good luck
 

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I've found that French society in general is rather well set up to support and encourage this kind of scam. The French seem well-conditioned to answer questions over the phone with no regard to whom they may be talking to. And most folks are only too willing to believe there are "regulations" that require them to spend outrageous sums of money on nonsense maintenance.

When we first set up our company, we were getting several calls a week on the company line claiming to be from "the mairie" and demanding to know the name of our gérant. (Mostly telemarketers who would call back later, asking to speak to the gérant by name and claiming it was "personal" if you asked them for any details.)

They got quite perturbed when I told them that all that information was on file at the Chambre de Commerce and if they really were from the mairie, I assumed they would have access to that information. (Actually, it's kind of fun to ask them which mairie they are calling from... takes them a while to check their paperwork to find out where they're supposed to be from.)

OK, I still enjoy asking the guys who call offering to handle our collections if they "break knees" and then I tell the guys with the incredible investment opportunities that "every sou I have is invested in this company" (amazing the folks who have no idea what a "sou" is) or that we don't pay taxes anyhow, so why should we need to invest in something to save further taxes.

But other than having a bit of fun on the phone when I'm in the right mood, I won't deal with any merchant that calls me or contacts me out of the blue. When I'm in the market for a good or service, I'll find someone in the phone book or by references from friends. Scams are simply too prevalent and far too easy to carry out here.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Hils, I looked into this for our gite and found no 'minimum requirement'.
Thanks to all of you above.

I still generally feel that the chalets ought to be equipped with fire extinguishers - perhaps of the type you can get for car/caravan, at least as a first preventative measure. But if there's no legislation, at least I can buy what I find and not have to take the - invariably - more expensive route of "approved" kit.

Ta
Hils
 
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