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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Austria to seize cars from illegal road racers

Austria announced plans on Monday to toughen legislation looking to curb illegal street races in the country including the seizure of vehicles.

Austria to seize cars from illegal road racers

“If you don’t have a car anymore, you can’t race”, Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) said on Monday, when the government announced plans to toughen legislation against illegal street racing. 

According to the government’s plans, drivers in Austria who are found guilty of extreme speeding will have their cars seized and auctioned off. The administration wants to deter what they called “boy racers” by threatening to take away their prize possession.

For many speedsters, their cars become “part of their identity”, the minister said.

“There is a speed at which the car becomes a weapon,” Gewessler said. The cars would be taken away from speeders “immediately and permanently”.

The government said they are trying to bring illegal street races and other cases of extreme speeding under control. They may seem rare in Austria, but they cause deaths, sometimes involving innocent bystanders.

READ ALSO: Austrian citizenship: Can you be rejected because of a driving offence?

If someone drives more than 60 kilometres per hour above the speed limit within a local area – or 70 kilometres per hour outside it – the car will, in future, be confiscated by the police directly on the spot. The driver’s licence will also be taken away.

Within two weeks, the respective district administrative authorities will then check whether it is a repeat offence. If there has already been an extreme speeding offence in the past, the vehicle will be taken away and auctioned off.

If someone drives more than 80 or 90 kilometres per hour above the speed limit, the car will be confiscated permanently on the first offence.

“At the speeds we’re talking about here, no one is in control on the roads anymore.” Gewessler expects 400 to 450 people a year to lose their vehicles.

READ ALSO: Does Austria have a street car racing problem?

In addition to confiscation, the Driving Licence Act stipulates that in case of a speeding offence of more than 40 km/h in urban areas or 50 km/h outside urban areas, the driving licence must, in any case, be temporarily confiscated. 

With this, even if the car is leased or borrowed (which would prevent authorities from confiscating and auctioning it off), the racer will nevertheless not be allowed to drive.

Once the cars are auctioned off, 70 percent of the proceeds will go to the Road Safety Fund and 30 percent to the relevant local authority. Forfeiture of an impounded vehicle is in addition to a fine.