While previously it was known that the main call centers from which phone scams were carried out were located in Ukraine, according to the web constable of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), these scams continued even after the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. .
“What we currently know is that scam calls are coming from abroad, but from where, exactly, we can’t really say,” PPA captain Maarja Punak told ERR on Thursday. “According to the latest news, such call centers have also been discovered in Latvia and Lithuania, for example. In other words, the fact that they have already been discovered in Ukraine does not mean that it is the only place they are; the scam network is actually quite large.”
According to Punak, the locations of these call centers are constantly changing as they move frequently. The most common scam, in any case, remains the same.
“As for phone scams, where someone pretends to be a representative of the bank or Google, for example, these have remained the same throughout – the script they follow has remained the same” , she said.
Scam targets are told that something is happening on their computer that needs to be taken care of quickly, and they are told that they need to download Anydesk, a remote desktop application. “People then download it and end up having their money withdrawn later,” she added.
According to Web Constable, investment scams are prevalent on platforms such as Tinder or Facebook, where scammers will reach out and start talking to potential victims of investing.
“They tell people that they are big investors and have made huge profits, but they are ready to share their tips and tricks, inviting them to try too,” she explained. . “The saddest thing we see in these cases is that people take quick loans to invest in these scams. Which of course means they end up losing their money and have to repay the loans. quick on top too.”
It’s not just old people who get caught up in it
However, the elderly are not the only victims of these scams. Punak noted that the latest cases involved people in their 40s and 50s, and while there was a recent case of someone over 90 being scammed, there are also younger victims.
“Believing in scammers is not dependent on age, although young people may be more aware,” she warned. “But there are certainly young people who manage to be convinced too. Especially when it comes to investment scams, which often start with a Facebook advertisement, for example, or via a contact in which you unwittingly started talking to someone on Twitter and they suddenly start talking to you about investing.In other words, young people are also at risk.
While scams are usually conducted in Russian, there have been cases where people have also lost money to English-speaking scammers. Estonian, on the other hand, is mainly only used to initially establish contact.
“There have been cases where it starts with a few sentences in Estonian and then it says someone is going to call from the bank but all the customer service reps in Estonian are busy,” Punak explained. “Then they ask if the person is willing to speak in Russian instead. In other words, they try to build trust with even a single sentence in Estonian, giving the impression that they care a lot and it’s urgent.”
A PPA spokesperson later added that another increasingly common scam consists of posts mainly on Facebook in which people are offered the chance to enter a raffle organized by Swedbank where the big price is a new car. The message then asks the targets to fill out a form that provides the scammers with information they can then use to contact the victim again, misrepresent themselves, and then, after gaining their trust, either empty the victim’s bank account. , or take out fast loans in its name.
According to PPA figures, last year Estonian residents were defrauded out of a total of 7.2 million euros via phone and online scams.
In the first three months of this year alone, victims have been defrauded of over €900,000 in investment scams and over €375,000 in phone scams. Another type of scam involves sending notices to the targets stating that they have a package waiting for them and to receive the package they must click on the link included in the message and pay.
“We have already seen more than 20,000 such cases in which people have lost [money] as well,” Punak said. “In other words, we are talking about very large sums here.