NewsFraudulent financial agents rake in millions

Fraudulent financial agents rake in millions

The grandchild trick or scam by bogus cops often involves seniors. Highly professional gangs that advertise large amounts of money on the Internet have their sights set on a different target group: people with fat wallets.

Karlsruhe – It started with a supposedly lucrative lure offer and 250 euros. Two months later, the man had lost around 300,000 euros.

Some of the money, which he probably lost irretrievably to scammers, he had borrowed from friends. The 81-year-old actually wanted to give his daughter a subsidy to buy an apartment. “It went completely wrong.”

The man fell victim to a scam that criminals have been using to make big bucks for a number of years. Supposed investment brokers promise strong friction, work with professional websites of trading platforms and lure with pictures of celebrities who allegedly have made exorbitant profits using so-called cryptocurrencies. Unsuspecting victims transferred large sums, sometimes millions, says Dieter Abstein, head of the white-collar crime department at the Karlsruhe police headquarters.

According to the investigators, the procedure is usually very similar: Sometimes an e-mail arrives, sometimes someone calls, sometimes it’s a link on the Internet. This can be spread quite widely without much effort. In discussions, interested parties are then tempted to transfer money abroad. Fake investment and return confirmations and elaborately designed websites convey seriousness.

But little by little there are supposedly problems: some taxes are due, notary fees are unexpectedly incurred or prices are falling. With arguments like these, scammers try to convince their victims or urge them to inject more money. “The cow is milked until she’s out of milk,” says Abstein. At some point the contact breaks off, the money paid in is gone.

It was the same with the man who wanted to give his daughter a cash injection. As he reports, he was in contact with a supposed advisor via video link. He could log into an online depository and observe price fluctuations from day to day. Everything looked professional. When he wanted to have a profit of around 100,000 euros, taxes in the USA were suddenly to be paid beforehand. “There was already so much money invested that I didn’t want to risk it.” He paid.

Borrowed money from friends

At some point the supposed boss of the intermediary reported that his colleague had made a mistake. A lot of money is lost if the 81-year-old does not pay back. You contribute a part yourself. Allegedly out of goodwill. The man borrowed money from friends. “I told everyone what I do,” he says. His wife knew too. Many were skeptical. Nobody stopped him.

When he became too suspicious and insisted on his money, contact suddenly broke off. Since then, he has never heard from the alleged investment advisors, never seen his money again.

It is difficult to estimate how many such cases there are. They are not specifically recorded in the police statistics. Roughly speaking, the Baden-Württemberg State Criminal Police Office says the number of known cases is in the upper three-digit range and the trend is rising.

“In general, however, in the case of fraud offenses and in particular investment fraud via online platforms, it can be seen that affected investors often do not feel cheated or refrain from reporting them out of shame,” explains a spokesman for the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). The number of unreported cases is therefore likely to be high. According to white-collar criminalist Abstein, the victims are usually those who promise a lot of money: doctors, engineers, lawyers.

The BKA has been dealing with the phenomenon of cyber trading since 2016. But even if a crime is reported, it usually happens late because the financial damage is only recognized with a significant time lag from the time of the investment. “This makes it more difficult for the law enforcement authorities to clarify the facts.”

In addition, according to police officer Abstein, the perpetrators as well as accounts and servers are mostly abroad. Actually, you have to follow the funds quickly to stop transfers. However, applying for legal assistance is a bureaucratic act. In contrast to scams involving fake grandchildren and police officers, in these cases the perpetrator does not have to show up in person at a front door to take money or jewelry. So here, too, there is no possibility of access for the police. “Prosecution is tough work and can drag on for years,” says Abstein.

A letter from the Mannheim public prosecutor’s office on the case of the 81-year-old also says: “There are no longer any promising investigative approaches to identifying the perpetrators.”

The federal and state police and the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) repeatedly warn against fraudulent cyber trading and publish information about it.

In retrospect, the 81-year-old admits that he should have been more suspicious. Even the process of setting up the account was very time-consuming. He had to hold his identity card up to the camera and was asked to answer questions in English with false information. That’s what the financial agent had told him. In the end it was difficult to find the jump.

Now he has not lost his entire pension plan. But in order to at least be able to return the borrowed money to his friends, he had to mortgage his house. dpa

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