This is the second time I've received a call that appears to be about stealing personal information. It all started when my iPhone rang and displayed a German cell phone number – in my case +49-171-814860. I answered unsuspectingly and an English-speaking voice answered, which was obviously automated.
I was told something like this: The call is from the Europol police and it's about my German identity card being misused. Now they would want to talk to me. If I agree to this, please press "1" on the telephone keypad.
Chapter in this post:
Fake call: query for name and birthday
I was torn as to whether it was a fake call or could be a real call and I pressed 1. Then a real person got in touch who I would assume has an Indian accent. She also spoke in English, but with a heavy accent.
In order to compare the data, I should first give my name and my date of birth. That struck me as odd, and my response was, "If you're the police and my ID card was misused, then you must know who I am, because you called me, after all."
The other party was a bit confused by the answer and after I heard call center background noise for about 10 seconds, I was asked if I could get my ID card to call the number. I then said that I would speak to the police and that I would certainly have my ID card.
The funny fake Europol official then hung up – clear sign: fake call. My number was apparently on the list several times, because less than two days later the same call came again. If I get a third call, I'll just name a few made-up dates and see what the goal of the calls is.
Fake call is a scam attempt
After I got the first call, I wondered what it was and looked it up on the internet. And indeed, there were already indications of this call scam:
The first source is a real Europol information page, warning of the calls in English and pointing out that Europol NEVER calls people. Here is the translation of the text:
Scammers call individuals under the pretense of representing Europol. The scammers tell their victims that they are involved in serious crimes or are the victims of a crime like identity theft. They then ask the victims to provide personal information and make payments while posing as Europol officers.
We also learned that these scammers can make it appear that their calls are from real Europol numbers. This is known as "phone spoofing," which is the use of fake caller ID information to disguise the true source of an incoming call.
This is fake! Europol will never phone citizens about such allegations or ask them to make payments!
We have been made aware of fraud attempts using fake letters claiming to come from various departments of Europol, as well as from the Executive Director, other senior officials and various international law enforcement officials. Emails and social media messages written in multiple languages used the names of senior Europol officials such as Catherine De Bolle, Jean-Philippe Lecouffe and Jürgen Ebner in order to appear reputable and legitimate. Fraud attempts have also been made via forged letters sent by third-party companies pretending to act on Europol's behalf.
Do not be fooled - all these letters are fake. Neither Europol nor its staff would ever approach citizens directly, demanding immediate action or threatening to open a criminal investigation. Europol does not issue fines or contact citizens to request payment.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE AFFECTED BY THESE SCAMS
If you receive a suspicious email or phone call claiming to be from a Europol department or employee, please report the matter to your local or national police immediately. The authorities will then contact Europol if necessary. Europol does not accept reports directly from citizens and cannot investigate individual reports.
To find out where and how to report a crime, please visit the relevant section of our website. To learn how to protect yourself from such scams, check out our Cyber Fraud Prevention Guide.
The second source has been Reddit because someone there has opened this thread and asked if these types of calls are real and how to behave. Here is the translation:
I have just received a call from a German mobile number claiming to be from Europol informing me that my German ID card has been misused for criminal activities. Is that a scam?
I received a call from a German mobile number. It was an automatic voice saying (in English) it was from Europol and asking me to press 1 to speak to someone as my German ID card was being misused. I did that and spoke to a gentleman who also spoke direct English to me. He said that my tax ID was misused, whereupon I asked for his ID, which he gave me: Mr. Steve Johnson with service number GP2314 from the Federal Police Berlin. I was confused as to whether it was my German ID or my tax number and pushed a bit to find out which one it was. The man got a bit aggressive in his voice and said I had to verify myself, give my full name etc. I replied that I had to speak to my lawyer. He got angry and said nobody could help me and I couldn't talk to anyone. I insisted on speaking to my lawyer (I don't actually have one). He said that they would now send a police officer to my home. i said ok Does anyone know if this is a scam or if the police are calling you directly to inform you of any fraudulent activity involving your IDs.
PS: I didn't even give them my full name or any other details.
So I wasn't the first to be called by these scammers. The BKA has already Warned of this scam at the end of 2021:
Citizens in Germany are currently receiving calls – allegedly on behalf of the Federal Criminal Police Office. On the phone, an automated voice will claim that the called party's ID needs to be checked and that you should follow the instructions to facilitate the check. Instructions follow, such as “press 1” to provide ID card information, supposedly to avert a fine.
The calls apparently come from fixed lines in Wiesbaden with the area code 0611. Various phone numbers follow, which often begin with the digits 916. Calls from mobile phone numbers were also reported to the BKA.
If you follow the instructions, you may be unknowingly redirected to premium rate numbers where you incur high charges. In addition, the perpetrators could use your personal data to order goods or commit other crimes on your behalf.
The Federal Criminal Police Office therefore advises all those called:
Don't follow directions, don't get caught up in a conversation - just hang up.
The BKA will never ask you to reveal personal data over the phone.
If you later discover that you have been scammed or that your information has been misused, file a criminal complaint with your local police station.
How do scammers get money?
So now we know for sure that this is a scam, but what exactly the scammers' scam is I was only able to find out later in an article in the "Black Forest messenger” read. Here it is described that one should first be frightened, so that one realizes that a dangerous situation is present. So this works similar to Scareware, where you get bogus error messages displayed on your computer, and then buy a tool that simply does nothing but fix errors that don't exist.
In the case of call fraud, the fraudsters naturally want to get some money, and the way is as simple as it is bold: they convince the people called that they are from Europol and that the misuse of their ID card puts the bank account of the called party at risk. In order to get the money to safety in time, you should transfer it to an account owned by the police until you have set up a new bank account.
Of course, once the money has arrived in the BKA or Europol account, the fraudsters no longer report it. And the betrayed find out much too late that they didn't call the police. Of course, the money can no longer be retrieved. What is transferred is actually lost and remains in the scammers' possession.
Are people that gullible?
It makes me wonder if there are still people today who are so naïve and just transfer their hard-earned money to an account that a total stranger (without showing their ID!) names them. Unfortunately, the answer has to be “yes”, otherwise the scammers would no longer do the campaign.
And finally, this “scam” also occurs with real people: the scammers prefer to run to older people and tell them that they are from the police and that there has just been a burglary in the neighborhood. In order to prevent the "burglars" from getting hold of the valuable things, people should put them in a small bag in front of their house at night. The “police” will then pick it up and take it to safety. And yes: This flat scam has often worked. Sad but true!
So: Watch your money, don't transfer it to anyone you don't know and prefer to close one instead Steady membership in support of my blog away. ;-)
Jens has been running the blog since 2012. He acts as Sir Apfelot for his readers and helps them with technical problems. In his spare time he rides electric unicycles, takes photos (preferably with the iPhone, of course), climbs around in the Hessian mountains or hikes with the family. His articles deal with Apple products, news from the world of drones or solutions to current bugs.