The grandchild trick has a successor and it is so brazen that many people fall victim to it. As police reports over the past few weeks have clearly shown, phone scams are becoming more common and appear to be quite successful for criminals. FOCUS online tells you what to look out for.

With the grandchild trick, criminals usually pretend to be relatives who are in financial difficulties. Their victims are mostly seniors who are supposed to transfer large sums or hand over jewellery, cash or paysafe cards to alleged police officers.

Many people are now sensitized. They know the grandchild trick and therefore no longer fall for the cries for help of the supposed relatives. That’s why the calls are getting more and more dramatic – and fancy. Because the victims are negatively surprised and high emotional pressure is built up from the very first moment, many fall for the trick.

Scammers usually take a look at the local newspapers. Grieving spouses and the names of their grieving children and grandchildren can often be found among the obituaries in particular. Telephone books are also used. There, the scammers look for old-sounding first names – including Dorothea, Helene, Hildegard, Vinzenz, Walburga, Waldemar or Waltraut. In combination with shorter telephone numbers, potential victims can be identified in this way.

In the new version of the well-known grandchild trick, the scammers pretend to be police officers. They explain in a stern and dramatic tone that relatives have been arrested because they caused an accident and people died as a result.

The aim is to build up high emotional pressure – from the first few seconds. The fictional stories sound believable, dramatic and the bad condition of the supposed relatives is always mentioned.

The Baden-Württemberg State Criminal Police Office has been alerted and has formed its own investigative group. In the previous year alone, the amount of damage caused by the grandchildren’s tricks was around eleven million euros. In the current half year, the damage has accumulated at a similarly high level. “We are expecting an increase and of course that worries us,” says Oliver Hoffmann from the LKA Baden-Württemberg in the SWR program “Marktcheck”.

Scammers would initially provide an element of surprise. They state that relatives are in a dire emergency. Money is urgently needed for bail or an operation.

The affected victims feel overwhelmed and therefore want to offer help quickly. The criminals take advantage of this and demand large sums, some of which are in the five-digit range. The handover often takes place on the doorstep or at specified locations.

The shock call is particularly perfidious.

“Because the high emotional pressure takes over the decision-making and perception, rational and sober trains of thought no longer work,” explains Martin Rettenberger, director of the Criminological Central Office in Wiesbaden, to the SWR. “The fear that something could really have happened then takes over.”

Remain calm no matter what you are told on the phone. The police will never call you in an emergency and ask for cash or valuables.

If you receive such a trick call, end the conversation by hanging up without saying many words. Contact the police as soon as possible.

Seniors with old-sounding names and short landline numbers should delete the entry from the phone book. In the case of obituaries, it helps to only give the names of the mourners and to refrain from statements such as “your husband”, “your wife” or “your children”.

If you receive a WhatsApp message from an unknown contact who also reports an emergency involving relatives and demands money, you should also listen carefully. Block the contact and inform the police.

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