French police arrest two for bedbug scam of elderly
STRASBOURG, France — French police on Thursday said they had arrested two men for fraud after they sold bedbug pest control services to elderly people who did not need them, charging them hefty sums for the service.
The two men, operating in eastern France, telephoned their victims, usually women over 90, telling them there had been a bedbug infestation in their neighborhood.
Preying on widespread fears of bedbugs that gripped France this autumn, they gained access to their targets’ homes passing themselves off as health officials.
They then pretended to inoculate the space against bedbugs with an aerosol. They also provided an ointment they said would keep the bugs away from human skin, which was in fact a simple eucalyptus-scented cream.
Accepting only credit card payments, they charged between 300 euros and 2,100 euros ($324-2,265) per visit.
Police investigated after receiving nine complaints of suspected fraud. In total, at least 48 people were scammed, authorities said.
Once alerted, police identified the suspects, put them on surveillance, and arrested them as they were leaving the home of their latest victim in Strasbourg, eastern France.
In October, France shut several schools over what was thought to be an infestation of bedbugs as the government held a series of emergency meetings.
The blood-sucking insects were reportedly spotted in the Paris metro, high-speed trains, and at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport.
But the individual cases were not confirmed by the authorities.
This did not stop London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, from calling the alleged French bedbug invasion a “real source of concern,” amid fears that the insects could spread to Britain.