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What to do with (international) phone scams?

12 February 2016

Fraud Help Desk is currently receiving many reports from people who have received cold calls, mostly from foreign telephone numbers. What to do if it happens to you?

These calls come in various forms. The reports range from Microsoft phone scams to a fake parcel service. Whatever the scammer is up to, the following tips will come in handy when you see an unfamiliar or foreign phone number on your display:

Don’t answer a cold-call from abroad, unless you often make international calls, of course. Be particularly vigilant if the number starts with the UK country code followed by 70 (+44 70 xxxxxxx) it usually means the sender is not in the United Kingdom. Nigerian scammers often use redirect numbers of this type to make people think they’re dealing with someone abroad. Of course, this doesn’t mean that all domestic phone calls are safe by definition. Remember that it is quite easy to disguise your number and display any other number in the screen of the person you are calling.

Does the caller have a strong Indian or Pakistani accent? In that case, the chances are that you have a Microsoft phone scammer on the line. They will tell you that something is wrong with your computer. End the phone call as soon as you suspect that you have such a con artist on the line.

Some of these scammers may play on your emotions by telling you that they may lose their job if you don’t listen to them. Don’t fall for this guilt trip. Just hang up the phone.

Never give a caller remote access to your computer. Don’t let yourself be pressured to download any software. This may give the scammer control over your machine.

Don’t let anyone put you under pressure. Many scammers will force you into a decision that you will regret later on. A reliable party will always give time for reflection. And they will always be willing to send you the details in writing.

Some scammers may call you about a parcel delivery and ask of your personal particulars, including your address, which of course makes no sense at all. They won’t need your date of birth, bank account number or other confidential details either. Just hang up the phone.

Don’t be tempted to return a call. The chances are that this will turn out to be a costly, overpriced international call. Letting the phone ring is also risky. You may hear a taped message that sounds like the telephone is ringing, but all the time you’re connected to an expensive premium number.

If the offer is an investment, check with the Netherlands Financial Markets Authority (AFM) to see if the company making the offer is properly registered.

Don’t pay for something just because you’ll get a “free gift.”

People who phone you saying they are law enforcement officers offering to “help” you get your lost money back “for a fee” are crooks.

Alarm bells should go off the moment you’re pressured into handing over your personal information, such as your bank account, credit card or social security number. Just hang up. Other clues that you have a fraudster on the line are: “You have been selected (for this special offer)”, “You will receive a nice gift if you buy our product” or “You are one of the lucky winners (of a foreign sweepstake or lottery)”. Other notorious phone scams involve fake bank employees. Don’t fall for these scams.