Business Owners Beware!
An extremely well-presented scam is doing the rounds of the P-O at the moment, targeting business owners.
Any auto-entrepreneurs/artisans out there will know how difficult it can be to get a straight answer regarding rules and regulations, even from URSSAF or the Chambre des Métiers! And with all the work reforms brought about under Macron, scam artists are exploiting the uncertainty as to what applies to who.
In this day and age, most people think they know how to spot a fraud. But what about when it actually happens to you? It’s not always as simple as it sounds.
The letter, incredibly official-looking, makes reference to the authentic 2017 legislation (décret n° 2017 431 du 28 mars 2017) regarding disabled access to your business. It informs you that registration has been a legal requirement since 1st October 2017 and asks you to call a number to rectify the situation.
As a diligent, law-abiding boss, you call the number given in the letter. Your call is answered by a very efficient French person who, like all good fonctionnaires, confirms the information they have on their system : SIRET, address, telephone number, email address, even date and place of birth in some cases!
They then take you through a “standardised” questionnaire, assessing your business in regards to disabled access.
- Do you currently have clients with visual or audio impairments?
- Do you have a first aid kit at work?
- Does your professional space adhere to norms for disabled access?
This continues for up to 15 minutes, before they finally hit you with the bill : 895€ no less! They also inform you that, in fact, you are lucky, because your dossier has not yet passed to majoration (penalty fines). If you want to avoid these extra, significant charges, then you need to pay immediately.
Fraud is common place these days; we see and hear about it regularly in the news, but these are professional scam artists, and smoothly counter any hesitation with extremely clever tactics. They send you a user name and password to log on to their, again incredibly official-looking, website.
Before you have chance to login and complete the “secure payment” online, they tell you that if you pay over the phone, they can manually override the administrative charges, saving you money. They transfer you to what they claim to be a secure line, even putting you hold to do so, before reading out the standard script about data protection and ultimately asking for your bank details.
If still you hesitate, again, they have a smoothly-delivered reassurance that, as with all secure payments, you will receive a text message from your bank before the money can be taken, which, of course, proves it is safe. Do not be fooled- they have your telephone number. If they can set up a website and a call centre, they can send you a fake security code!
The Mairie in Perpignan confirm that registering your business on the disabled access register is COMPLETELY FREE OF CHARGE and can only be done via the government agency: la Direction Départementale de la Protection des Populations (DDPP). The DDPP is also there to protect you, as consumers and as business owners, so if you receive a letter, an email, or a telephone call that you suspect to be fraudulent, transfer the details to them.
As a business owner, you rarely have the luxury of time to really look into the fine print of laws and regulations, and you’re used to being passed from pillar to post for the different aspects of French bureaucracy. This makes you a relatively easy target. The DDPP have received hundreds of complaints regarding this, and similar scams, over the past few weeks.
It just goes to show, in terms of money, and your business, you can never be too careful! If you receive any such paperwork, always check with an official agency before calling the “help line” as these themselves can rack up huge phone bills!
And of course, NEVER share your bank details over the telephone, even if the person tells you not doing so will incur further charges!