Where there’s Smoke…Beware of the Smoke Detector Scam

Our smoke detector, strategically situated in the stair well
Our smoke detector, strategically situated in the stair well

I never cease to be amazed by the inventiveness of potential scammers. Not content with phoning up and pretending to be Microsoft’s help centre, or emailing to tell you that someone you don’t know in Cameroon wants to place millions of euros in your bank account, they have now turned their attention to smoke detectors.

Legal requirement

Since March 8th this year, private property owners in France have been required to fit a smoke alarm (détecteur de fumée). This is a pretty sensible idea. Once your house is on fire, you have surprisingly little time to get out. It’s not the flames that get you but the smoke inhalation. Smoke detectors are (or should be) more sensitive than the human sense of smell, so they give you that extra chance to escape.

Many house fires in France are caused by electrical faults. Conscious that our own electrical installation may not be perfect in places, we had a smoke alarm installed a few years ago. We also have a portable one elsewhere in the house.

Like most such equipment, smoke detectors have to conform to quality and safety norms in France. If you buy one, it should have the certification CE and NF EN 14604 (“Norme Française”). You are also supposed to inform your insurer in writing that your house has a smoke detector installed. I wonder how many people know this (we didn’t).

Beware of phoney inspectors

Two scams have been going on in relation to smoke detectors. Scam Number 1 concerns door-to-door salespeople who claim to be official, authorised sellers of smoke detectors. They are bogus; there are no official smoke alarm sellers. So don’t let them in, and certainly don’t buy an overpriced alarm from them.

Scam Number 2 is a phone scam and we have experienced this on a number of occasions recently. You answer the phone and a recorded message kicks in, telling you that an authorised smoke alarm inspector is going to come round and check that your detector conforms to the standards. The message then asks you to wait to be connected to someone so that you can fix an appointment.

Again, there are no official inspectors. Instead, they will charge you through the nose for their service and, to add insult to injury, might case the joint to burgle it later on.

You do have to maintain your alarm (i.e. make sure the batteries haven’t run out) and ensure it’s in working order. But there is, as yet, no official programme of inspections. So, again, don’t make an appointment and don’t let them in if they turn up.

There are also insurance implications if you don’t install a detector. I won’t go into detail here since I’m no expert. You can find out more about it via Google.

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  1. We installed smoke alarms when we bought our holiday home and then, later, in our ‘retirement’ home. One day a neighbour of the holiday house came round to ask if we could please go and do something about the noise emanating from the house. We rushed round but no smoke or fire. The batteries were ok and we discovered that a spider walking across the mechanism can set the thing off! Re unwanted phone calls i get someone claiming to be from windows help desk and a chap who tells me he has a party of scandinavians who would like to rent our gite for a month. My husband has become very expert at spotting the fraudelant gite enquiries that arrive by email! Btw we have just put away the garden furniture, battening down for winter. A whole new season to enjoy! xx


    • They clearly are very sensitive, then. I must remember to clear away the spiders’ webs around ours. It seems that people with gites and B&Bs are common targets for potential fraudsters.

      Our garden furniture is still optimistically in place. But we have closed the swimming pool for the winter. The weather has turned very autumnal here.


  2. Thank you for this very informative post. I did know we had to inform the insurers in writing so we ticked that box but the scamming is new to me and I will now be on my guard. Mind you I talk like the proverbial Spanish Cow on the phone so that might put them off!! By the way – my daughter and I enjoy le fete des Cornets de Murat two Saturdays ago and I thought of you, knowing that you enjoy Murat 🙂


    • Well done for informing the insurers. We were totally ignorant of this requirement.

      I so wish I could have been at Murat for that. Unfortunately, yet again this year we won’t get to the Cantal. We went to Corsica for a week at the end of Sept and other commitments on our return mean we won’t get there now to enjoy the best of the autumn weather. Next spring, I hope, for the flowers…

      Liked by 1 person

        • Oh yes, I certainly can’t complain and we revisited the Corsican village where I found the inspiration for my novel. And Cantal has been around for a few million years, so it’s not going anywhere!

          Liked by 1 person

          • My daughter stole my copy of your book so I have to order another. I have told her to review it since she said she loved it 🙂
            As for Cantal – well every Poisson d’Avril is a claim that it’s errupted (volcanically) but I think we are safe for now!


  3. Not had that one yet, Vanessa, but I never answer the phone to calls from numbers I don’t know, and as yet have no doorbell so pretty safe for now! My detector went off already so I unplugged it. Oh well… The insurance thing is interesting, shall look into that. Thanks for the info.


    • Very sensible. We get increasing numbers of unsolicited calls, even though we are on the liste orange. Generally, if you wait long enough before picking it up, someone else has already answered, since they phone numerous numbers at once.


    • We are always sceptical of unsolicited phone calls like that. Even so, we did wonder if it was an official requirement to have the alarm inspected. And, of course, it isn’t.


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