Are you going to France this summer? Beware of scam sites before you go

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Scammers don’t take away the summer, be on your guard when buying your Crit’Air sticker

If you drive your own vehicle in certain regions of France at certain times, you will need to purchase a special “pure air sticker” called Crit Air or risk a fine from the French government. Similar schemes already exist in the UK with the Low Emission Zone in central London, and the sticker proving you paid is considerably less than the fine.

A quick Google search will show you the site that provides Crit Air stickers, as well as many other sites with advice, stickers are compulsory for all vehicles entering certain regions of France. Once you locate the official website, it’s initially in French, but you can view the English and German versions with just the press of a button and then start filling out the form.

Figure 1. Legitimate site selling Crit’Air stickers – https://www.certificat-air.gouv.fr/.

Now this website is not illegal, quite the contrary. Indeed, the problem is not the official site; it’s the fact that it’s extremely easy to create an impostor site and promote it heavily and, using clever SEO tactics, perhaps even boost it up the Google rankings. In fact, the threat is not purely theoretical and several people have said that they have been scammed when buying their Crit Air thumbnails of sites claiming to represent the French government [1, 2, 3, 4].

To make matters worse, the amount of data requested by the legitimate website is rather large, especially for a site you may never have heard of and which may be in another language.

Figure 2. Information requested by the legitimate site selling Crit’Air stickers

Vacationers in a rush to fill out a new form and with few places to verify its authenticity could potentially lose their money or data. Scammers could use this tactic cleverly, especially when people may view the vignette as a minor, but necessary annoyance before going on vacation.

Beware of copiers

The genuine website even states:

You can be sure to be on the official site if the ministry logo is displayed and the site address ends with .gouv.fr.

Beware of intermediaries and fraudulent sites.

But since when did this prevent any cybercriminal from copying the logo and changing the wording to match the prefix they choose on the fake? Or use domain names of the form www.certificat-air.gouv.fr.example.com or form URL example.com/www.certificat-air.gouv.fr that rely on less than thorough verification by people with less than perfect knowledge? Or just remove that little piece of text from the copied site content?

In other words, as a scammer, you don’t need to deceive every possible victim in order for your site to earn you money quickly and almost for free. Additionally, sensitive information is often sold on the dark web and other illicit channels and you should also be aware of secondary phishing email attacks if you have filled out a potentially fraudulent form.

Again, the problem is not Crit Air website; it is the fact that cyber criminals keep copying genuine sites and directing people to scam sites in order to steal their valuable personal data from under their fingertips. Moreover, without knowing that it is a scam, people could still be liable to a fine without having purchased the legitimate vignette to drive in France.

How to get your Crit’Air sticker safely

Since cyber criminals will seize every opportunity to steal data and money, you should be very careful before submitting your personal and financial information to a website, especially if you are visiting a website for the first time. time. In this particular case, it’s probably best to enter the URL by hand and make sure you enter it correctly: certificate-air.gouv.fr.

It should protect you. Good holidays !

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