"Be Smarter Than the Scammer" - Westhessen Police Mobilize Against Scams and Fraud
As we go about our daily routines, thieves and con artists are all around us - silently and intently watching and waiting for the opportunity to strike with one simple goal in mind: to relieve you of your valuables and your money. Whether you are out shopping, using public transportation, at the cafe next door, at the bank, or even in your own home, thieves and scam artists have no scruples and no respect for even the privacy of their victims. Using many methods to steal from and defraud their victims, senior citizens and the elderly often become targets of confidence scams due to their willingness to help and general vulnerability.
Case in point: a 71 year old woman became the unfortunate victim of one bold scam artist. A female subject called her impersonating a good friend and begged her for a considerable sum of money. The woman, a resident of Wiesbaden, unsuspectingly agreed and went to her bank. After withdrawing several thousand Euros from her bank account, she handed the cash over to a second scammer, this one posing as the legal secretary of the lawyer allegedly hired by her “friend”. After the initial successful score, the victim was contacted again by her "good friend", and once again, another considerable sum of money was requested and the victim withdrew the amount from her account. Neither the victim nor the bank employees had reason to be suspicious, so the transaction then became a second successful score for the perpetrators. Predictably, the perpetrator called yet a third time, demanding more money. However, this time the 71 year old woman became suspicious, the call was immediately terminated, and a third money transfer was never made. In the end, the unfortunate debacle resulted in losses exceeding several thousand Euros.
As in the case described above, the 71 year old woman was the victim of the so-called "Enkeltrick”, which involves posing as known (or unknown “long lost”) relatives or friends. Here, a special technique is used: the callers pose as relatives, former colleagues, school friends, etc. and through manipulation via clever conversation, manage to gain the victims trust. Through this technique, the good faith and willingness to help of the elderly is exploited here in an extremely vile manner. In the wake of this case, Wiesbaden Police appealed to the elderly citizens of the city to be wary of such phone calls and not to be persuaded to make hasty money transfers. If there is any doubt about the caller’s identity or intentions, the police should be notified immediately. Moreover, in all cases, it is wise to call the individual in question back at a known phone number for positive identification.
Not only should one be suspicious of telephone calls. Very often thieves introduce themselves at your front door as maintenance personnel, plumbers, repair technicians - even police officers - and attempt to gain access to your home under the guise of official business, such as having to perform inspections or read meters. Do not let repairmen into your home without confirming their identity and making sure their reason for being there is valid! Thieves and scam artists will usually depart hastily when questioned or their identity is under close scrutiny.
Make no mistake: nowhere is safe when it comes to con artists and thieves. Even something as benign as flashing a bit of cash or opening your wallet in public can make you a target. Be vigilant and suspicious at all times and especially when a stranger offers you help. Not everyone who offers to help an elderly woman carry her bags to her home has their best interests at heart. If you are approached while shopping or at the ATM for spare change or a few euros for bus fair, use caution. They may just want to see how much money is in your wallet, or even steal your wallet right then. Therefore, a good rule of thumb is: the hands of others don’t have a place in your wallet!
Special attention must be applied during even seemingly benign everyday situations. For example, what may seem like someone asking directions to the nearest hospital and holding a map in front of your face may be an attempt to distract you or block your line of sight while they pick your pocket. Thieves are commonly using such visual barriers or distractions to steal your valuables.
One must be very careful even when strangers show gratitude for your help with directions or something similar. In a recent case of theft, a clever thief, under the guise of a warm hug to someone for helping them on the street, made off with a necklace valued at several thousand euros.
At the beginning of the autumn, many people start their Christmas shopping early. Holiday sales draw large crowds of shoppers - often numbering in the thousands - in pedestrian zones throughout the city. Pickpockets exploit this scenario and use the chaos and the cover of the dense crowds during these times to ply their tradecraft.
To avoid becoming a victim of pickpockets, consider the following precautions:
- Carry only the necessary cash, debit or credit cards to accomplish the task at hand.
- Divide and distribute your cash, debit and credit cards in several different locations throughout the body, such as in hidden money belts, neck pouches, or pockets not easily accessible.
- Always carry handbags with the flap or lock side closest to the body.
- Always keep your purse or handbag securely closed and NEVER leave it unattended.
A final tip for pickpocketing and fraud prevention: don’t be a victim!
Due to the increase in cases involving theft and fraud, over the next few weeks police specialists of the Westhessen Police Headquarters will be conducting seminars highlighting theft and fraud prevention. Citizens and interested parties are encouraged to attend these events.