Telephone fraud is a major problem. In 2022, around 3,800 cases of telephone fraud were registered in Germany. It is particularly noteworthy that the Federal Network Agency received at least 40,000 complaints about fake calls in the same year. These calls often involved scams involving fake police officers.

The figures for 2023 are not yet fully available, but are expected to be similar to the previous year

The fraudsters try every trick in the book to deceive the person on the other end of the line. Older people in particular are being ripped off. They are robbed of their money, their assets and their trust.

Current telephone fraud scam: Fake Europol or Interpol calls in connection with blackmail are currently rampant. The authorities officially warn against alleged calls from Europol or Interpol. There are already several victims of this telephone scam. You can find more information on this page.

Lawyer for telephone fraud – Have you been victimized by telephone scammers? Contact our lawyers at the Herfurtner law firm and arrange a free initial consultation.

Table of contents

  1. Telephone fraud – the perpetrators’ approach
    2.1 Targeted questioning
    2.2 Attempt to intimidate
  2. Avoiding telephone fraud – tips on how to behave
  3. Phone scams: examples
    3.1 A careless “yes” can be expensive
    3.2 Telephone fraud: options for victims of fraud
    3.3 Call ID spoofing – what is it?
    3.4 Beware of the ping trap

Telephone fraud – how the perpetrators operate

Telephone fraudsters who want to get hold of savings, cash and valuables, preferably from older people, are quite clever in their approach. For example, they call at impossible times of day – extremely early or late at night – and take advantage of the fact that their victim is sleepy, tired or not yet fully alert.

Furthermore, the perpetrators build up a sense of familiarity right at the beginning of the call, which is only a pretense. Or they lure the caller into a trap with false friendliness.

Targeted questioning with scam calls

The fraudsters know exactly how best to proceed in order to achieve their goal. They try to find out as much as possible about their target person by asking intelligent questions.

For example, they ask whether the victim is at home alone, whether their partner is present or whether the victim has any cash. They play for time and rely on answering a large number of questions to tire the victim out.

If callers refuse to go to the bank and hand over their money and belongings, the fraudsters try to keep them on the phone until they finally agree.

Attempt to intimidate

People who react suspiciously, e.g. when a fake police officer calls, can be accused of obstructing important investigations or of being obliged to help. There is only one thing you can do in this situation: don’t give in to the pressure and hang up.

Avoiding telephone fraud – how to behave

Phone scams can be avoided by following some behavioral strategies when receiving these scam calls.

These actions have proven to be effective in the past:

  1. If you do not know the caller, do not engage in a conversation and do not answer personal questions.
  2. If you receive a call from an unknown person, be suspicious. Not everyone is up to no good and it is possible to get the wrong number – but caution is always advisable.
  3. If someone asks you for money on the phone, do not respond and avoid handing over valuables or cash to strangers at the door in good faith.
  4. As soon as you notice something strange in the conversation, end it and hang up. This is not rude, but the appropriate response to unwanted phone calls.
  5. Discuss the subject of telephone fraud with your family and think in particular about the older generations, who are unfortunately usually the focus of fraudsters.

Preventive awareness-raising helps to recognize fraud attempts and stop them in good time.

Four well-known scams in telephone fraud

Telephone scams often follow patterns, which makes it easier to recognize a scam attempt as such and react accordingly. The three most common telephone fraud scams are as follows.

Saying “yes” at the wrong time can be expensive

Phone scam “Yes” said what to do? Contracts that are supposedly negotiated over the phone are putting increasing pressure on consumers. Those who are affected tell them that they should say “yes” loudly and clearly on the phone. The callers achieve this by asking specific questions, such as “Can you hear me?”

Those who have been contacted by this type of scam call are sent contract agreements or invoices a few days later by fraudsters. Obviously, according to the scammers’ argument, the recipients had agreed to this during the phone call.

Extreme examples of phone calls being edited together have been reported in the media, where the “yes” was spoken exactly when it was needed to close a deal. However, a contract was never actually concluded.

No obligation to pay and right to complain

You should therefore be aware that you are not obliged to make these payments. However, you should not simply ignore them, but stand your ground and defend yourself. Although it would be consistent to avoid saying “yes” during a telephone conversation, it is almost impossible to prevent this in practice.

A good strategy to avoid playing into the hands of the perpetrators of telephone fraud is therefore to always answer questions with a complete sentence. For example, answer the question “Am I easy to understand?” with the answer “I understand you”. Also make it very clear to your conversation partner if you are not interested in their products or services.

And if you are not sure, simply hang up the phone. For your own protection, make a note of the caller’s name, the company, the date, time and telephone number as well as what was discussed during the call.

If you are contacted by an advertiser without your permission, use this information to file a complaint with the Federal Network Agency and the consumer advice center.

If you have become a victim of telephone fraud, in many cases it is helpful to file a criminal complaint for fraud. Our lawyers at the Herfurtner law firm will provide you with comprehensive advice on this topic. We also represent the interests of fraud victims in the areas of cybercrime, Bitcoin fraud, internet fraud, investment fraud and online fraud scams. Please feel free to contact us.

False connection at this number – call ID spoofing

You receive a call from a number you know (e.g. from the police), but it actually comes from a completely different line. A supposed “police officer” calls older people and demands credit card information, jewelry or money transfers abroad over the phone.

The scammers try to exploit people’s trust in the police by pretending to be police officers. For this reason, you should never give out account numbers or other personal information over the phone and, above all, inform older people in your circle of friends and family accordingly.

Because no police officer would ever demand data or money from a caller. If in doubt, call your local police station and find out. Alternatively, you can dial the emergency number 110, but then do not use the call-back button.

Telephone fraud: small callback, big costs – the ping trap

After a short ring, the phone goes silent. The aim is to get you to call the caller back. The problem here is that the callers are often not in Germany, but somewhere in Africa or the Middle East.

Calls to these parts of the world cost a lot of money, and some of it ends up in the scammers’ wallets. Incidentally, the telephone numbers either come from address sellers or, even more frequently, from computer programs that automatically dial prefixes for cell phones and telephone number blocks.

You should take a close look at a telephone number that has only called you briefly. Is there a “+” symbol or two zeros in front of the number? If you do not recognize the phone number, you should not return the call. It’s also not a good idea to call suppressed numbers if you don’t want to become a victim.

Telephone survey scams – refuse to provide information

In order to effectively defend yourself against telephone survey fraud, it is first important to understand the nature of this type of fraud. Telephone survey scams come in a variety of flavors, but the common element is the deception of the respondent about the true intent of the callers.

Phishing calls: In this type of scam, callers pose as representatives of a known organization or government agency and attempt to collect sensitive information such as credit card information, social security numbers or passwords.

Pseudo surveys: These are so-called “push surveys” in which the callers try to sell you certain products or services or influence you politically under the guise of a survey.

Identity theft: In some cases, the caller may try to gather enough personal information to steal your identity and carry out illegal activities in your name.

The law provides protection against telephone survey fraud, and it is important to understand these legal issues to protect your rights.

Consent to data collection: Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the collection and processing of personal data is generally only permitted with the consent of the data subject. This means that you have the right to refuse to disclose your data. You also have the right to request information about the data collected and its use.

Sanctions against fraud: Telephone survey fraud is a violation of the German Criminal Code (StGB). If you suspect fraud, you can file a criminal complaint with the police. In addition, attempts to commit fraud over the telephone are also a violation of the Telecommunications Act (TKG), which also provides for sanctions.

The Europol call scam: how does it work?

“This call is from Europol…” This is how a scam begins in which criminals pretend to be Europol. In some cases also as Interpol or another investigative authority. The fraudsters contact their potential victims by telephone and pretend to have important information about an ongoing investigation or an arrest warrant against them.

They ask the victim to disclose personal information, transfer money or make a payment in order to avoid prosecution or imprisonment. In some cases, the scammers also pretend that they want to protect the victim from fraudsters or cybercriminals and demand access to bank accounts or computers.

The perpetrators use various techniques to deceive their victims and build trust, such as

  • Use of falsified telephone numbers (so-called spoofing) that give the impression that the call actually comes from Europol or another police authority.
  • Use of names and titles of real police officers or Europol employees.
  • Mentioning alleged criminal offenses or investigations intended to alarm the victim and induce cooperation.
  • Pressure and intimidation tactics to force the victim to hand over information or money.

What is Europol and what does it do?

Europol is the European police authority that was founded in 1999 and is based in The Hague, Netherlands. Europol’s main task is to support and promote cooperation and the exchange of information between the police authorities of the EU Member States in the fight against serious and organized crime and terrorism. Europol’s areas of responsibility include, among others

  • Combating terrorism
  • Combating organized crime
  • Combating human trafficking and migrant smuggling
  • Combating drug trafficking
  • Combating cybercrime
  • Combating white-collar crime and corruption
  • Support for cross-border investigations and operations

It is important to emphasize that Europol has no executive powers and does not carry out direct investigations or arrests. Instead, Europol acts as a coordination and support body for the national police authorities of the EU Member States.

Legal basis and current court rulings

The Europol call scam is a criminal offense and can be prosecuted in most countries under various criminal offences, such as fraud, coercion, identity theft or usurpation of authority. Depending on the severity of the offense and the financial benefits obtained, perpetrators can face prison sentences, fines or other legal sanctions.

In recent years, there have been several court rulings that confirm and clarify the criminal prosecution of this scam. For example, in Germany in 2020, a group of fraudsters who had posed as police officers and defrauded elderly people of their savings were sentenced to many years in prison.

In another case in 2019, a man in the UK was sentenced to several years in prison for fraud and money laundering after he posed as a Europol employee and stole several thousand pounds from his victims.

How do you recognize the Europol call scam and how do you protect yourself against it?

To protect yourself from the Europol call scam, it is important to recognize the warning signs and take appropriate precautions. Here are some tips on how to recognize and protect yourself from the scam:

  1. Europol or other police agencies will never ask for personal information or money over the phone. If you receive such a call, you should immediately become suspicious.
  2. Check the caller’s telephone number. If the number does not match the official number of Europol or another police authority, or if it is visibly fake, it is probably a scam.
  3. Be wary of calls where the caller exerts pressure to give up information or money immediately. Legitimate authorities will always give you the opportunity to verify the claims and seek legal assistance if necessary.
  4. Never give out personal information, passwords or bank details over the phone, especially if the caller is actively asking for them.
  5. Ask for the caller’s name and office and make a note of this information. Then hang up and contact the relevant authority via their official telephone number to verify the authenticity of the call.
  6. Inform your family, friends and acquaintances about this scam, especially older people who may be more vulnerable to such scams.
  7. If you suspect that you have fallen victim to such a scam, report the incident immediately to the local police and inform your bank to avert possible financial losses.

Fake doctors telephone scam

In this scam, fraudsters pretend to be doctors on the phone. In order to extort money from their victims, they use a false shock story to catch them off guard. Their relative urgently needs a costly treatment, operation or expensive medication.

However, this would require the immediate transfer of a considerable sum of money – after all, that’s what the scam is all about. The perpetrators’ strategy is designed to shock, confuse, overwhelm and frighten the victims so that they can steal from them more easily.

Caution – fraudsters pretending to be bank employees on the phone

Fraudsters posing as bank employees pose a serious threat to consumers’ financial security. To protect yourself from such scams, it’s important to stay informed and be vigilant. This blog post has highlighted the various aspects surrounding fake bank employee scams, including the legal aspects, laws, recent court rulings and tips on how to protect yourself.

By following the tips mentioned and understanding the legal framework, you can effectively protect yourself from fraudsters and ensure your financial protection. Remember that your personal information is valuable and you have the primary responsibility to protect it.

Remain vigilant and suspicious of suspicious calls, emails and text messages, and notify your bank and the appropriate law enforcement agencies if you encounter fraud.

Tech support fraud on the phone: refuse remote access

Tech support phone scams are fraudulent scams in which perpetrators pretend to be employees of a reputable technology company in order to gain access to their victims’ computers and personal information. This is usually done by remotely accessing the victim’s computer.

The fraudsters pretend that there is a problem with the victim’s computer or software that urgently needs to be fixed. They offer their help to solve the supposed problem and often demand large sums of money in return. Tech support scams have become one of the most common scams in recent years. According to the Federal Criminal Police Office, the number of reported cases of tech support scams on the phone has risen significantly in recent years.

The following is a list of the most important steps in the scam:

  1. The scammers call their victims and pretend to be employees of a well-known technology company, such as Microsoft or Apple.
  2. The perpetrators claim that there is an urgent problem with the victim’s computer or software that needs to be fixed immediately to prevent further damage.
  3. The fraudsters ask the victim to grant them remote access to the computer. They often use programs such as TeamViewer or AnyDesk.
  4. Once they have gained access to the computer, the fraudsters show the victim supposed evidence of the problem, such as fake error messages or system diagnostics.
  5. The perpetrators offer their help to solve the problem and demand a fee, often in the form of voucher cards or bank transfers.
  6. After the victim has paid, the fraudsters usually disappear without having fixed the supposed problem. In some cases, they even use remote access to install malware or steal the victim’s personal data.

The effects of tech support scams on the phone

The effects of tech support phone scams are varied and can cause both financial and emotional damage. Here are some of the possible consequences:

  • Financial loss: victims often pay large sums of money to the scammers without actually getting the promised problem solved.
  • Theft of personal information: Since the scammers have access to the victim’s computer, they can steal personal information such as passwords, bank details and personal documents.
  • Installation of malware: In some cases, the fraudsters use remote access to install malware such as viruses, Trojans or ransomware on the victim’s computer. This can lead to further financial losses or the loss of important data.
  • Emotional distress: Victims often feel humiliated, betrayed and frightened after realizing that they have been the victim of a scam.

Examples and case studies

Below are some examples and case studies that show how tech support scams work in practice and what the consequences can be for victims:

Case 1: A pensioner received a call from a supposed Microsoft employee claiming that his computer was infected by viruses. The fraudster convinced the pensioner to grant him remote access to his computer and pay a fee of 500 euros to remove the viruses. After the pensioner had paid, the fraudster disappeared and the pensioner’s computer was still infected with malware.

Case 2: A young woman received a call from an alleged Apple support employee who told her that her iPhone had been hacked. The scammer asked the woman to grant him remote access to her iPhone and pay a fee of 200 euros in iTunes gift cards to fix the problem. The woman paid the fee, but later realized that her iPhone had not been hacked at all and that she had been the victim of a scam.

What is broker phone fraud?

Broker phone scams are a form of fraud in which fraudsters pose as reputable brokers or financial advisors and contact potential victims by phone. These fraudsters try to persuade their victims to invest money in supposedly lucrative investment products that later turn out to be worthless or non-existent. The scammers often use fake identities, company information and websites to appear legitimate.

The fraudsters lure their victims with promises of high returns and low risk and often exert massive pressure to persuade investors to invest. In many cases, victims are pressured into investing more and more money until they eventually suffer a total loss.

Warning signs of broker phone scams

To protect yourself from broker phone scams, it’s important to know the warning signs and watch out for them. Here are some signs that can help you recognize scammers:

Unexpected calls: reputable brokers and financial advisors don’t usually contact potential clients unsolicited. So if you receive an unexpected call from someone offering you an investment opportunity, be wary.

High pressure sales tactics: Scammers often try to pressure their victims by claiming that the investment opportunity being offered has a time limit or is only available in limited quantities. Reputable investment advisors, on the other hand, will give you time to think about an investment and gather information.

Promising returns that are too good: If the promised returns sound too good to be true, they usually are. High returns usually come with higher risk, and reputable investment advisors will never guarantee that you will make high profits.

Unknown or unregulated companies: Fraudsters often pretend to work for reputable companies or use fake company names and websites. Therefore, always check the identity of the caller and whether the alleged company is registered with a financial supervisory authority.

Missing or unclear information: Fraudsters are often vague or contradictory in their information about the investment products they offer. Do not be confused by complicated technical terms and incomprehensible explanations. Reputable investment advisors are transparent and explain clearly how an investment works and what risks are involved.

Protective measures against broker phone scams

To protect yourself from broker phone scams, you should take the following measures:

  • Be suspicious of unexpected calls: As mentioned above, reputable brokers and financial advisors do not usually contact potential clients unsolicited. So if you receive an unexpected call, be cautious and ask the caller for their identity and the reason for the call.
  • Verify the caller’s identity: Ask the caller for their name, role and the company they work for. Research the internet to find out if the company they are calling actually exists and if it is registered with a financial regulator.
  • Ask for written information: Ask the caller to send you written information about the investment product being offered. Reputable investment advisors should be able to provide you with detailed information about the risks and costs of an investment.
  • Resist the pressure: Don’t be influenced by high-pressure sales tactics and don’t make any hasty decisions. Take time to thoroughly investigate the investment on offer and seek independent advice if necessary.
  • Report suspicious calls: If you believe you have been the victim of a broker phone scam or have received a suspicious call, report it to the relevant financial regulator or your local police. Your report can help stop fraudsters and protect other investors.

Telephone scams – help for victims of scam calls

If you believe you have been the victim of a telephone scam, you should contact our law firm immediately. Thanks to our expertise, we can provide you as the victim with the best possible advice. Our lawyers will work with you to take action against telephone fraud and help you to file a criminal complaint right through to the court hearing.

Take advantage of our free initial consultation and ask our lawyers about all civil and criminal law options in your specific individual case. We offer you a realistic and honest estimate of success and cost transparency. We are available to our clients in Germany and other German-speaking countries.