Austrian police warn public about new ‘fake cops’ scam

Members of the public in Austria have been targets of scammers pretending to be police officers. Here's what you need to know.

A police car in the city of Vienna, Austria

Austrian police have warned the public about a scam that has apparently returned to the country: the “fake police officers” trick.

According to the authorities, the suspects contact their victims by phone, saying they are from the police and then try different techniques to get money from the people. In the most recent version of the con, the suspects pretend to be officials from international police body Interpol.

In one case reported to the police, a man was contacted by phone and told that over the course of an international police investigation, his name was associated with numerous bank accounts. The criminals told him he risked losing his savings unless he transferred his money to a secure Bitcoin wallet.

The 26-year-old man followed instructions and transferred money to the account.

He lost over €10,000, according to the police who did not reveal the full amount.

Another case involved a 37-year-old man who was informed he was talking to an Interpol official. The person explained, in English, that documents with the victim’s identity were found and used to open several fake bank accounts. The victim was asked to confirm which accounts really belonged to him and was instructed to carry out several transactions using cryptocurrency.

READ ALSO: Austrian police warn residents of fake DHL text message scam

The victim also lost over €10,000 although police did not reveal the full amount.

How to avoid falling victim

Austrian police have reiterated to members of the public that they never require cash transactions to be carried out by phone. The authorities also recommend stopping suspicious phone calls immediately and then call police on the number 133.

Also, authorities remind the population not to disclose any details about financial circumstances or sensitive data over the phone.

It is also worth noting that cryptocurrency payment requests since the cash is not traceable, are a big red flag. If you are asked to send money via a bitcoin or other crypto wallet, under any circumstances, that should raise alarm bells. So be extra careful if this happens.

Other common scams

Recently, Austrian police warned about other scams, one in particular concerning the DHL postage company. SMS messages are sent to people, intended to look like a parcel notification from delivery service DHL.

The message typically reads that a “pending package” is available and it is the “last chance to pick it up”, before inviting the recipient to click on a link.

However, the link then installs malware on the recipient’s phone by inviting them to install an app.

Authorities remind people not to click on links. Instead, access the official website and check the information, or call the company to confirm. 

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EXPLAINED: What to do if you experience online abuse in Austria

Following the suicide of an Austrian doctor who received threats from Covid-19 anti-vaccination activists, the government has now launched a new campaign to help victims of online abuse.

EXPLAINED: What to do if you experience online abuse in Austria

The Austrian medical community was left in shock in July when Lisa-Maria Kellermayr, a local doctor in Seewalchen am Attersee in Upper Austria, took her own life following months of online abuse.

Kellermayr, 36, had been targeted by anti-vaccination activists and Covid-19 conspiracy theorists for her out-spoken support of vaccines, and the abuse even included death threats. 

Her death prompted candlelight vigils and demonstrations in Vienna and the tragic story was picked up by news outlets around the world.

READ MORE: How Austria’s attempt to make vaccines mandatory changed the country

This led to calls for tighter laws against online bullying and the ability for perpetrators to be prosecuted in other EU countries – particularly as at least two of the people who are believed to have targeted Kellermayr are based in Germany, according to the Guardian.

The Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) has even called for the creation of a special public prosecutor’s office to deal with “hate-on-the-net”, but this has been rejected by prosecutors and other political parties, as reported by ORF.

Instead, the Federal Justice Department has launched a new information campaign, website and hotline to help people dealing with online abuse.

FOR MEMBERS: What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

What is in the new campaign?

Austria’s Justice Minister Alma Zadic (Greens) said they have launched the campaign to raise awareness about the issue and to inform victims about the support available.

Zadic said: “It is important to me that those affected know that they are not alone in this situation and that the judiciary supports them with free psychological and legal process support.”

“You don’t have to cope alone with the extraordinary burdens that criminal proceedings can entail, for example through confrontation with the perpetrators.”

READ ALSO: Austria in shock over doctor’s suicide following anti-vax abuse

Part of the support package is the new website Hilfe bei Gewalt (Help with Violence), which details how to access help from the authorities, as well as secure free legal advice and representation from a lawyer.

The website states the service is for victims of bullying and/or hate online, defamation, stalking, terrorism, incitement, sexual violence and robbery.

The service is designed to be anonymous with options to contact the Justice Department by phone or via a chat box. The website also lists contact details for regional support services in all provinces across Austria. 

The free (kostenlos) hotline for Hilfe bei Gewalt is 0800 112 112.

Useful links

Hilfe bei Gewalt

Austrian Federal Justice Department