A cautionary tale

An English friend of mine looking for gainful employment here saw an advertisement at the beginning of May, on a well-known website which provides information to anglophone people. The advertisement was on the local page in the Dordogne, though it may have appeared elsewhere.

The job in question involved 2 or 3 hours' work a day, from home, doing general administrative stuff online for an 'international entrepreneur' and the pay was 350 euros a week plus expenses.

The international entrepreneur gave my friend the job and said he would be sending her a cheque, some of which would cover her salary and some of which would be used for business purposes.

A couple of days later a cheque for 2300 euros drawn on a French bank with a French woman's name on the account appeared in the post and was followed by a spate of enquiries by mail as to whether she'd paid it in etc.

She was then told to transfer 1500 euros via Western Union to a person with a Malian name in Paris, and to buy 400 euros worth of mastercard top-up vouchers in any tabac and send the codes to her 'boss'. This was backed up by various telephone calls from 'Andrew' who spoke English with a West-African accent and seemed very plausible.

She did all this. Another cheque also for 2300 euros then appeared (a different French bank this time with a French man as the account holder) and she gave it to her bank.

The next day she got a letter from her bank saying the first cheque had bounced and to get in touch with the person who issued it (the woman). Then yesterday she got another letter from her bank saying they were shutting down her account as they are entitled to.

She has tried to get in touch with her 'boss' or 'Andrew' by telephone and email but obviously there is no answer and now the telephone doesn't work...

Yesterday evening I rang her bank for her to find out what the problem was - to discover that they had written to her last month (she doesn't know where that letter is) warning her that the 2nd cheque had been declared stolen and that they weren't happy with transactions on her account and would be shutting it down if no explanations were forthcoming.

So this morning we went to the gendarmerie because as you will all have realised (I hope) she was taken in by a fairly crude scam and has lost about 2000 euros, had her bank account closed and is interdite bancaire for the moment. And the wretched people in Paris who have had their cheque books stolen from their letter boxes could have been seriously out of pocket too.

The advertisement she replied to has now been removed from the well-known 'information for anglophones' website but there will no doubt be more.

I have seen a couple that smell of scam to me (asking for people who know about French tax "you will be well paid") I have also noticed lots of advertisements which probably aren't scams but for odd jobs etc with never a mention of cheque emploi service or a contract or anything legal and which are presumably au noir, frequently building-related jobs so there will be no insurance or anything for the builder OR the householder...


If anything, my BS radar has improved... scammers are a little less sophisticated back where I came from.

Oh and acc to the gendarmes the chequebooks are stolen from people's letterboxes & half the time they don't realise until their account is drained/they get a statement...

Zoe - you are quite right re the 'being an accountant' that's why I said that when people cross the channel their BS-radar seems to shut down! I put a warning on the site where the original ad appeared & there was another ad today and surprise surprise the ad has disappeared - but so has my warning!

Veronique, you are misreading my comments, when IU said "the money you sent".. I meant, "you" as in the general public, in the event that one is a scam victim. your friend's cheques came from somewhere, also, perhaps the non-stolen one might give an idea.
There is a reason for the paper trail.

Being an accountant, I am surprised she even went as far into this as buying the prepaid cards...
Being an accountant, I'm surprised she was seeking employment in a "work from home" field just being advertised at random on the internet, Being an accountant, I'm most surprised at the fact that she actually went ahead and paid the initial 1500 euros through Western Union, to a total stranger whom she has never met, on the basis that she has now, in her posession a cheque, one of the least secure forms of payment.

They certainly used to James. When Sendero Luminoso got really going in Peru in the 1980s I quite often had problems collecting from WU. They were cutting off the connection to any office where it was suspected money was being handed out to the terrorists. That was done between Lima and wherever they are in the USA, thus my money from Germany and UK never went anywhere. For me that was bad because it saw me penniless (OK, sole/inti-less) but if it was done then it can be done better now.

I think it is rather more as Zoe says, when people are scammed they do not own up and go through the embarrassing manoeuvres of reporting, following through, possibly bring charges, etc. Trouble is the little mules will be roped in and the people making real money move on to the next scam.

Er Zoe I didn't send anything anywhere - I just did the telephoning to the bank to find out why my friend had her account terminated and went with her to porte plainte at the Gendarmerie (so she can show the Banque de France she is a victim of a scam and has some chance of ever getting another bank account here).

My friend who was scammed is an accountant and would normally be canny enough to spot this sort of thing.

Yes, it can be traced, but most often to a Western Union office in the back streets of Lagos.

Who is going to track down criminals in a patently corrupt country?

I've done some scammer baiting, it's interesting, and they are just as gullible as the victims, at times, and when you start to ask questions, they come up with the funniest, and most stupid justifications, and explanation as to how it all works.

The money you sent went somewhere, and that CAN be traced. A colleague in the hotel I work in fell for a scam where she agreed to buy an industrial robo-mixer for her kitchen, for 300 euros... she sent the 300, and got a phone call asking for a hundred more, because of shipping fee... she western unioned it, and was further asked for another hundred, because the husband of the lady selling it was stuck in customs in Nigeria, and needed help with getting paperwork sorted, and the hundred euro would help... it was only THEN that she smelled a rat.

coming to terms with the fact that she had been scammed, she didn't want to go to the police... poor education being what it is, she reckons there i "nothing" they can, or will do for her. She is wrong, the western union have a record of where this money went, and the same dealer is selling other items on the same site... but because she is blasé, over it, embarassed, and the type that would prefer to buy things on the black market, she won't go any further about it.
so it continues, instead of being caught, the scammer goes on to fool yet another lady the following day.

It is sad to say that the Police will be pretty much useless in cases like this.

The scammers are very good at hiding their tracks.

The person with a Malian name is probably not in Paris at all. The WU payment can be collected anywhere in the world using the ten digit MTCN number.

The ring-leaders in Africa will use "mules" or small-time thieves as go-betweens in Europe to launder the stolen money, receiving a small cut of the proceeds in return.

There is simply no infrastructure in place to bring these people to book.

Well I have just been to The Aforementioned Website to look at the ads and you'll be glad to know that Kimi Raikkonen is now looking for a part-time administrative assistant - exacrly the same wording as the one that took my friend in (only it was Pedro Larios that time, he's a footballer, google tells me...) so I have rung the Gendarmes and also put a message on the site (I had to join it what a pain) I don't see what more I can do... I was tempted to string them along by applying with a fake name & email etc but I don't want to give them my address. Creeps.

I looked at something similar .They wanted a driver to drive his wife and family around while they were here on holiday as the man would be working and he would pay me by cheque

However he was going to send me the cheque before they arrived and he wanted me to take out 'My fee' and send the remaining money onto someone else

smelt a rat straight away .If its too good to be true it normally is

And 350 euros a week for 2/3 hours work a day is too good to be true

This is terrible, and not made any easier by France's archaic banking system.

I hope the victim recovers from this as soon as possible.

We are often quick to condemn victims as "gullible", but many continue to fall for these scams, among them a lot of very educated, erudite people.

For info, this site is very useful for information on the modalities of various scams, as well as reports from "scam baiters" who purposely string scammers along to waste their time and resources:


Hmmm. One of these days, I must follow up on all those emails offering me millions. Could do with a few bob this week! For your amusement, here's one I got recently:

Bonjour,La fondation Bill Gates Melinda tient à vous aviser que vous
êtes gagnant d'une somme de 250.000,00€.
Merci de prendre contact avec le cabinet Notarial serren ci-dessous.
Toutes les informations sont strictement confidentielles et ne seront
utilisées que pour un but demandé. Au nom du Conseil d'administration
nous vous prions de recevoir nos félicitations les plus chaleureuses.
Maître Souleymane FALL Huissier de justice.

,Téléphone : (00229) 98 29 45 00 Voici
les informations à fournir par émail
AGE Profession
PS: Date limite d'envois de votre demande de revendication du prix:
DEUX SEMAINES Directrice des Opérations Mme Gremaud Jacqueline

Could she possibly track down the mastercard voucher codes? Or the first bank transfer to the man in Paris?

I feel bad for the people who had their cheque books stolen. I'm sorry for your friend, and that's a very expensive way to learn a lesson, but I'd be really surprised if it never crossed her mind that she was involved in something dodge (hmmm, why cant this guy transfer his own money?; who sends a cheque for 2300€ to an unknown "employee"?; Mastercard vouchers?; 400€ for 30 mins work?... ding ding ding) the cash was just too tempting. No wonder she didnt tell anyone.

Regretable but if she didn't know about the 'Nigerian scam' theme ....! Another reason to speak French and keep in touch with your bank, as it looks like proper paying in procedures were not followed - it comes down to if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is, so agree with Sheila! Like lambs to the slaughter!

People who fall for this type of scam really make me laugh, and want to cry at the same time.

On the one hand, you need to be either very naive, or very desperate to get into this situation, but at the same time, it is always heartbreaking to see someone being taken advantage of.

The vast majority of people I know have never been taken in like this, nor have I (except for one time I gave a child a euro on the RER B, without knowing the situation), but in general, western unioning money, and prepaid Cards stink of scam, and anyone buying into the scam is almost deserving of the lesson.

The sad thing is those people then become suspicious of REAL companies, turning up at the hotel, for example, not wanting to give their credit cards (when, in most hotels, a card number is the only means of securing a room.)

It's a little like people who download applications through facebook, or whatever, and then end up with trojans, and worms in their computers...

similar scams are rife within leboncoin, and similar sites, and people are being posted photos of items they expect to arrive in the post, once the cheque has been cashed.

Right now, your poor friend is probably feeling angry, ripped-off and foolish.

We get several scam emails a week looking for B&B. Usually, it is for 4 Christian people, looking for accommodation "in your area" for 3 or more weeks, and wishing for a response "tabulating the price", etc., etc. Take any one of the sentences in the email and run it through Google search, et voila! The phone number provided is usually a +22 so for those who have ever wondered whether or not to take it further, don't!

223=Mali Republic
224=Guinea, Rep
225=Ivory Coast
226=Burkina Faso
227=Niger Republic
229=Republic of Benin

I am sure she would never have been taken in by a scam like this in Britain but somehow here the bullshit-detectors don't seem to function quite as well especially when dealing with 'fellow English-speakers' via what is probably a perfectly reputable site (all I know of it is from their advertising at the airport and looking last night) - I think also that as times are hard perhaps people want to believe things which look too good to be true and so end up being conned.

We had an email a couple of years back, asking the price of one of Henry's paintings, which they had seen on his website. I gave the price for painting and shipping, and received a cheque for much more, with a follow-up email saying the accounts department had made a mistake with the amount and could we refund the difference. Their first mistake was thinking we would fall for it. Their second mistake was that it was drawn on a UK solicitor's Client Account. As I worked in the law, I knew no solicitor in his right mind would use client money to make a purchase (well, those who don't want to get struck off). I rang the law firm in question and they confirmed several cheque books had been stolen. I contacted the Fraud Squad in Dublin and sent them a copy of the cheque and the emails, as requested Didn't get an award though! :-D

Bottom line, if it seems to be too good to be true........