27th September 2009

Some time ago I wrote of an internet scam whereby £500 was taken out of my bank account by fraudsters unknown. Some, including me, may well have thought that in future you'd avoid buying things via the internet and only write cheques in future. Well, now it seems that even that payment method is open to abuse, especially here in France.
A British fraudster called Warren Templeton recently stole millions of euros from expats. He posed as a financial advisor, asking his victims to make out cheques to a well-known French bank Societe Generale. He told them that he would invest their money into one of the bank's high interest funds. Instead, the conman was able to pay the money directly into his own personal accounts - and fund his own lavish lifestyle of luxury cars and a chateau in the Dordogne.
What is particularly worrying is that it is apparently standard practice in France for a customer to be able to deposit a cheque into their own account, despite it being made out in the bank's name. All you need to do is sign the back of the cheque! This practice has been outlawed in many countries, including the UK, for many years - but not in France!
So, expats in France, be warned. If you need to make out a cheque to an organisation, make sure you also include a specific account no. on the payee line. If you don't know these details, put something on the back of the cheque like 'the destination of this cheque is ...... and is intended only for the benefit of......(your own name)/it should not be countersigned'.

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