NewsEndless grandchildren's trick - a "real epidemic"

Endless grandchildren's trick – a "real epidemic"

Sometimes an alleged grandson calls, sometimes a public prosecutor or doctor. Your goal: the money of the called party. Despite a lot of educational work, older people keep falling for this scam – why?

Lübeck – It always starts quite harmlessly. The phone rings and the caller answers with the words: “Guess who’s here.” At the start of a conversation like this, the alarm bells should ring for those called.

“Be suspicious if someone doesn’t introduce themselves by name on the phone. It could be a grandchild trick fraud, ”says Matthias Rascher, press spokesman for the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania State Criminal Police Office.

Again and again, older people fall for this trick, in which the callers pretend to be relatives, but also as police officers, bank employees or notaries. “They pretend to those called that a relative urgently needs money to buy an apartment, a car or to settle an accident damage,” says the press spokeswoman for the LKA Sachsen, Kathlen Zink.

“Since the beginning of the corona pandemic in 2020, callers have often posed as clinic employees and claim that a relative is seriously ill with corona and needs expensive medicine from abroad,” says Zink. According to the LKA, 79 such corona shock calls were registered in Saxony alone in 2020. A total of 1078 crimes against older people were recorded in Saxony, which were committed by nationally acting perpetrators or groups of perpetrators in the domestic environment.

Grandchildren’s trick – an invention from Germany

“The grandchildren’s trick is a German invention that has now spread internationally,” says sociologist Christian Thiel, who, among other things, researches the background to fraud at the University of Augsburg. In Switzerland and Austria the scam is known as a nephew trick, in the Anglo-Saxon-speaking area as “grandparents scams”, he says.

“Arkadiusz” Hoss “Lakatosz is considered to be the inventor of this scam, which was first registered at the end of the 1990s,” says Thiel. He had taken up and expanded a strategy that had already existed in the 1950s and was aimed primarily at repatriates from Eastern Europe. “He created a logistical infrastructure that has turned the grandchildren’s trick into a real epidemic since the early 2000s,” says Thiel.

The LKA Schleswig-Holstein also reports a significant increase in the number of cases. “In 2016 there were 396 cases, 377 of which were attempted acts, the total damage was just under 407,000 euros,” says press spokesman Uwe Keller. “In 2020 there were already 1033 cases with a total loss of around 944,000 euros and in the first five months of 2021 there were already 368 cases,” says Keller. There are no nationwide figures because the grandchildren’s trick is often not recorded as a separate crime group in the crime statistics.

The material damage is often high. For example, grandchildren trick fraudsters in North Rhine-Westphalia stole 15,000 euros from an 82-year-old who believed she was using the money to help her granddaughter buy an apartment. The old lady had actually saved the money for her funeral.

In the Stade district in Lower Saxony, according to the police, at least ten elderly people received calls at the beginning of June demanding sums of up to 30,000 euros in cash for a drug for a family member suffering from corona. Most of the people called ended the call immediately, according to the police, with an 87-year-old woman from Stade an attentive bank employee prevented the money from being withdrawn.

The winning streak

But why do older people fall for the fraudsters despite all the police educational work? “The perpetrators develop an efficient deception choreography that” convinces “the victims, says Thiel. “They have a kind of tool kit with typical deception tactics, which they put together like building blocks to create various scams.”

Frank Scheulen from the LKA North Rhine-Westphalia gives another reason. “Many seniors feel safe in their own four walls, so that they ignore existing and in parts already internalized knowledge,” says Scheulen. In addition, the callers are rhetorically experienced and adaptable, which causes stress for the victims because of the supposed emergency situation. “In addition, there is often a deeply anchored willingness to help, pronounced social behavior and respect for alleged officials,” says Scheulen. “All of this together is the key to the systematic perfidious exploitation of senior citizens,” he says. dpa

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