The young man had called a 75-year-old woman in Linz, pretending to be her nephew and claiming to urgently need money for a flat. However the woman and her 74-year-old partner became suspicious and alerted the police.
“From this point on the man played his role of the victim like a Hollywood actor,” said local police chief Gottfried Mitterlehner.
Coached by detectives, the pensioner agreed to meet with the 19-year-old to hand over the €24,000 he said that he needed. They arranged that the money would be delivered by a taxi driver.
But when the Polish man went to retrieve his spoils he was greeted by a police officer who promptly arrested him.
Police have released a picture of the fraudster as they believe he may have tricked other elderly people.
“We’re currently investigating whether he has defrauded anyone else. Sometimes victims fail to come forwards because they feel ashamed but they should feel free to contact us,” said chief inspector Walter Rothländer, head of fraud for the Upper Austrian police service. Anyone who believes they have been a victim of such a scam should call the Linz police department on 059133-40 3333.
Police said the 19-year-old has already served time in prison in Germany for similar offences.
In 2012 elderly people were conned out of around €3.5 million by ‘nephew’ scams in Austria - but thanks to greater awareness and prevention measures such cases have become rarer.
Criminals phone elderly people up and typically pose as a grandchild, nephew, or niece who urgently needs to borrow some cash for a new car or home.
Police recommend that people help minimize their chances of falling victim to one of these elaborate scams by checking with other family members if they do get a call, asking questions that only the “real” family member would know the answers to, or calling local police departments.