SMS fraud: Massive increase, numerous victims

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„Hallo Mama, ich habe mein Handy kaputt gemacht“(“Hi mom, I broke my cell phone”): with this message, scammers are currently contacting potential victims via SMS or WhatsApp. The Federal Criminal Police Office reported on Saturday that reports of such cases had recently increased by 350 percent. The damage is enormous.

Using a number unknown to the victim, the fraudsters send messages to thousands of recipient numbers. In these, they pretend to be the victim’s daughter or son and claim to be writing from a friend’s cell phone (hence the unknown number). Then, four-digit sums of money are demanded urgent payments to be transferred to an account.

Despite intense warnings from various police agencies in Austria, the daughter-son scam continues to experience tremendous increases, the Federal Criminal Police Office warned. Between October and December, the number of incidents known to the police rose nationwide to around 880 reports per month (preliminary figure, not statistically adjusted). The dark field is to be classified as much higher.

“Around 50 percent of these incidents were documented as completed fraud with financial damage. This phenomenon is likely to have caused damage of over 600,000 euros in October alone, with a strong upward trend,” a BK statement said. In the current situation report of the Federal Criminal Police Office, this mode is now almost on par with order fraud, which usually has by far the highest number of incidents.

Tips from investigators

Crime prevention officials are once again calling for warnings against this scam. Especially the younger generations should inform parents and grandparents about this fraud trick, the BK emphasized. If a family member unexpectedly makes contact under a new or unknown telephone number, “immediately call back the family member concerned under the number already stored and make sure,” advises the police. One should never respond to contact requests without checking or asking.

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