01 June 2011

Scammed, maybe, and worried

The temperature in Saint-Aignan this morning, according to the little gadget I have on my Windows 7 desktop, is 2ºC. That's dangerously close to freezing. Our outside thermometer, however, reads 9ºC. On the radio early this morning, the weather report talked about frost on the ground in parts of Touraine.

Yesterday it was 97 or 98ºF in my home town on the coast of North Carolina. That's hot for May — or any time. Over here, by Sunday the average high temperature across northern France is supposed to be close to 30ºC — that's 86ºF. It's crazy. And still no rain. Maybe 1.5 mm day before yesterday in our rain gauge. That's hardly a trace. Walt is out watering the garden now, at 6:15 a.m.

Touraine vineyards and our hamlet

Meanwhile, I think I might have been scammed. I'm not absolutely convinced, but there's that nagging doubt and fear in the back of my mind, keeping me awake at night. It all started last week when I got a call from the British company that handles our currency operations, taking the dollars we have sent to them and forwarding the money on to our bank in France in euros.

The representative on the phone said he had a special offer on homeowner's and automobile insurance to talk to me about. He asked if he could have a representative of the insurance company, which is in France, call me. I said yes, I could take a call the next morning.

A neighbor's rose after a brief rain shower...

That call came in last Friday, and I had a long chat with a British guy who works for a French company that is actually a subsidiary of the bank where we have our accounts in France. At least that's who he said he was. He was calling from Normandy. He said he would work up a quote for our homeowner's insurance and send me all the necessary documents by e-mail.

I subsequently got his e-mail, read through all the papers he sent, called him back, and then filled out the forms and e-mailed them back to him. It was an attractive offer, and came with a 20% rebate for the first year because I am a customer of the currency-exchange firm in London. Did he have a deal for me, or what?

One form that I sent in was an authorization for the company to draft the annual insurance premium from one of our French bank accounts. After I sent him that authorization and a lot of other documents, the man called me again and said he had made a mistake in calculating the premium, which he said was going to end up costing me nearly twice as much as his initial quote.

...and another

Now I'm worried that the company will take money out of our account even though I decided not to go ahead with the policy. It's unlikely, since the insurance company is a subsidiary (supposedly) of our bank, and it's one of the largest banks in France. I'm getting ready to go off on a driving trip for a week, and I don't have time to deal with this. But now I feel like I need to drive over to my bank over in Montrichard and put a stop-payment on the authorization I sent out. It's all a big pain.

And it's my fault. I know better than to try to business with British companies operating in France. They are just not up to snuff when it comes to French regulations, laws, and business practices. And any time you add an international element to any financial transaction, you are asking for trouble. And that's with a capital T.

This is a British outfit that targets British expats in France who don't necessarily speak much French and who need services and information in English. That's not my case, but I fell for it anyway.

My greens after a generous watering — not by Mother Nature, but thanks to the garden hose

The insurance company representative said he had initially misunderstood the legal details regarding how we own the house — we are incorporated and our corporation owns it. In other words, we own the corporation, which in turn owns the house. When he realized that, he jacked up the premium. And that happened despite the fact that I explained everything to him during our first phone conversation. He just wasn't listening. As Walt says, he was too busy trying to sell me something...

I hope I'm worrying myself silly over nothing. But I guess I now need to do something to protect myself against fraudulent withdrawals of funds from my bank account by this so-called insurer.


  1. Sounds more like a mistake than really a scam. In France, anyway, you have a seven-day grace period for this kind of sale, like door-to-door sales. You have to send a registered letter saying that you don't want to go through with the deal. You can say that the terms of the deal have changed and you did not sign for the new price. But you really don't have to give a reason. If you suspect that they will not honor your rescinding the contract, then contact your bank to try to put a stop on the authorization, but that might cost you.

  2. I don't think it was a scam. I worked for that bank based in Caen and they are setting up teams to work with different areas of France including the Loire.
    Is the trading company you're using HiFx? If so then I'm 99% sure it's not a scam but my former employers. Do you remember the name of the person who called you? If so let me know and I can tell you for 100% :) I only finished working there in February so I still know everyone in the office.

    Send me an email if you prefer but I'd be happy to put your mind at ease :)

  3. I hope all will be well, Ken. Have a good trip. We'll see you in a few weeks. xo

  4. Dans le doute, et comme vous l'avez suggéré, je ferais opposition auprès de ma banque.
    A propos du caractère "exceptionnel" du climat, je me suis rappelé d'un lien amusant sur quelques évènements climatiques d'une autre région française, la lorraine: http://www.villages-lorraine.com/Divers/climat.html

    Comme quoi, il semblerait que nous ne soyons pas les premiers à faire l'expérience d'une certaine instabilité. Jusqu'à maintenant, la situation ne semble pas pire qu'en 1976.

  5. I hope you have done two things:
    a- contacted your exchange company

    b- contacted your bank

    Good luck, and the UK?English servises are not all bad :)


  6. 'we are incorporated and our corporation owns it. In other words, we own the corporation, which in turn owns the house. When he realized that, he jacked up the premium'.' That does sound plausible but given you had explained to him, incompetent. Regardless, if places operate like they do in Australia, I would still be concerned. Stopping authorised bank deductions is not easy.

  7. Can appreciate that you are worried. But as Ellen says you do have a 7 day cooling off period by law; same as you did when buying the house once you signed the compromis de vente.
    BTW I bank with a bank which has a much easier solution to international transfers which does not involve having to use a currency company. Let me know if you wantt details. Antoinette

  8. A chill went down my spine when I read your post today, but I am not so worried after reading your reader comments, especially Ellen and MJ's. You have readers who are in the know;)

    Putting a stop may be the best thing unless you can get that guy doing the deal to put something in writing for you. Still you'll still be worried and you've got a trip coming up.

    Could have been worse- someone could have plished you. It happened to a friend of mine and it was difficult to get straightened out.

    Your greens look perfect. Maybe the weeds won't grow this year. We had a cold winter here and some of my garden's pests aren't showing up.

    It's a good thing that this problem happened before you were on your trip. Bonne route

  9. Evelyn, thanks for the good wishes. It will be a busy week, with many kilometers covered.

    Antoinette, is your bank an American one? I have my accounts with a credit union in Washington and even their exchange rates are not as good as the ones the currency exchange company gives me.

    Bonjour Jan, je n'étais pas en France au printemps et à l'été de 1976 – je suis parti en Amérique en février de cette année-là. Alors je ne peux pas comparer. Mais je sais que le climat est cyclique par sa nature.

    Blathnaid, I never said that English services are bad; they are just an extra layer of complication for me, because I'm American. Better to deal directly with French providers, I think.

    Ginny, à bientôt :^).

    Thanks Ellen, MilkJam, Andrew...

  10. I don't know if it was a scam or not. It seems MilkJam can be your best source to check it out. HGood luck.

  11. Ken, I've sent you an email re: banking and transfers. Antoinette

  12. Use water to protect your growing greens and the French equivalent to registered mail to protect your other green. Given your talent for worrying, you owe it to yourself and any traveling companions to set your mind at rest before you go. Have a wonderful trip!

  13. Thanks, Antoinette. Got it.

    Susan, :^) — I'm a long time practitioner of Transcendental Meta-Worry. I find it calms me down in moments of crisis.


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