Beware of scam phone calls

Tanja Beller

All kinds of scams are increasingly being carried out by telephone. From emergency scams (see grandparent scam) to telemarketing scams and fake tech support scams. The scammers’ objective is usually to get you to give them sensitive information, such as your bank details. 

“Your account has been blocked for security reasons.” Or “there is a problem with your computer”. The scammers claim to be from your bank, from the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) or from Europol or Interpol, or they pretend to be tech support from a software company. It’s a well-known scam. They claim to be from serious companies so they can gain your trust or put you under pressure. 

Then they might try and get you to give them your account details or other personal data, such as your address, so they can “compare” it for “security reasons” or to reactivate your online banking functions. Alternatively, they might offer to “help” you set up a new TAN system. In some cases, the scammers will try and gain access to your computer using remote access software. Their aim is to trick their victims into making a payment using the TAN system.

Beware of number spoofing 

You may see the telephone number of a bank or customer service for a software company on your phone’s display. But, in actual fact, the caller ID has been manipulated. Don’t be fooled by the number on your display. Ask the caller for their name and tell them you’ll call them back, then hang up the phone. 

Look up the correct telephone number on the company’s website. Make sure not to ring any number given by the caller or the one on the phone’s display because then you might get through to the fraudsters again.

Don’t give strangers access to your computer

If the caller says they want to “fix” a problem with your computer or “unblock” a blocked account and says that to do so they need remote access to your computer, you should see this as a red flag! They pretend to be helping you but, actually, they just want to take over your computer.

This kind of phone scam is particularly effective if you also get an email with a link purporting to be from your bank a few days before the call (phishing). If someone then calls you claiming to be from your bank, this combination of email and telephone call often gives the impression of being genuine. The victim of the scam is therefore more likely to trust the caller. 

At some point in the conversation, the scammer will then ask you to click the link in the email. For example, they might say, “Of course you can always go and visit your local branch, but if you prefer, I can fix the error now for you”. 

Always remember: do NOT click the link and do NOT download any programs, even if the caller appears to be amiable and genuine.

Don’t be pressured into doing anything

It doesn’t matter what the caller tells you, it’s important you remain calm and collected and don’t let yourself be pressured into doing anything. The scammers will probably try all the tricks in the book: For example, they could say that your account will be blocked, that you’ll have to pay a hefty fine. But even if they threaten you with a lawyer, a debt collection agency or that you’ll be taken to court, don’t give in to them!

But they might also try appealing to your sense of responsibility by asking for your help to prevent a crime or something similar. 

And don’t be tempted into doing something just because the caller seems friendly and trustworthy. Their aim is always to get you to do something, like click a link, enter your data, download some remote maintenance software or get hold of your personal data in any way they can. If in doubt, just hang up. And if you’re unsure if what they’re telling you is true or not, you can always call your bank or your local police station directly and clarify the situation with them. 

Do not give them your personal data

Always be responsible with your personal data and don’t give too much away. This includes account details, card numbers, PINs and TANs, your address, telephone number or date of birth. Always consider whether this information is really necessary for the intended purpose. With scam phone calls it could be that the scammers already have some information, but want you to confirm more details. Don’t be misled into making a mistake. 

Block phone numbers

You can block SPAM calls and report them to your provider or, in Germany, to the Bundesnetzagentur. You can submit complaints on their website. You can also report nuisance calls, abandoned calls, unwanted text messages via SMS or via messaging services, email spam or fake caller IDs.  

With a ‘missed call’ or ‘Wangiri’ (Japanese for ‘one ring and drop’) fraud, your phone will ring once then the caller will hang up. If you call the number back, you get an automated reply. But by then it’s too late because you get charged fees when you make the call and the scammer profits, as you’ll discover when you get your next telephone bill. 

File a criminal complaint

Note: If ever your bank details are misappropriated – or you suspect they may have been – then report it to your bank immediately. Also contact the police and file a criminal complaint. The police can only prosecute the criminals and put a stop to the fraud once you’ve filed a criminal complaint.


Contact Persons

Tanja BellerMedia Spokeswoman