Two men have been arrested in France after allegedly scamming elderly people into paying thousands of euros for bedbug treatment they did not need.
Police in Strasbourg said the men would go to their victims’ homes, carry out phony control services, and then overcharge for treatment products.
They added that 48 people had been scammed altogether, many of them women over 90.
Recent months have seen a rise in bedbug infestations across France.
The issue has sparked concern across the country, with senior government officials working on measures to address it.
Entomologists and health experts have warned that the outbreak has also led to a rise in false sightings and unwarranted hysteria.
Authorities said the alleged scammers would phone their victims and tell them there was an infestation in their neighborhood.
They would then visit the person’s home posing as health officials and, using aerosol sprays, pretend to fumigate the space.
Before leaving, they would offer an ointment that they said would keep the bugs away from human skin. The ointment was a simple eucalyptus-scented cream.
Victims would be charged between €300 and €2,100 (£257 and £1,800).
Police said they had received a total of nine formal complaints for suspected fraud.
The suspects were then placed under surveillance and arrested as they left the home of an alleged victim in Strasbourg.
The infestations in Paris have led to fears the problem could spread across the Channel to London.
Speaking to PoliticsJOE in October, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the threat to the capital’s public transport system was a “real source of concern”.
He said he had been in contact with counterparts in Paris as well as officials at Transport For London to “ensure we don’t have that problem”.