Austrian police warn public about new ‘WhatsApp scam’

People in Austria have been targeted by scammers on messaging services such as WhatsApp. Here's what you need to know.

whatsapp phone messaging
There is a new scam going on in Austria, police warns. (Photo by Adem AY on Unsplash)

Austrian police have warned the public about a scam that is sweeping through the country: criminals pretend to be family members or friends of the victims and try to scam them out of thousands of euros.

The new scam has been detected throughout Austria in the last few weeks, police said. The fraudsters send the victim a message via WhatsApp or other messenger services pretending to be a relative or a friend and saying they have a new mobile phone number.

READ ALSO: Austrian police warn public about new ‘fake cops’ scam

They often start with a greeting such as “Hello, Mom”, suggesting that the person contacting is the victim’s child. The person targeted then reacts as they usually would to a message sent by a family member and the written conversations continue.

The scammers make up excuses for the new phone number (usually saying there was a problem with their previous device) and tell stories to avoid a phone call (such as saying that the new device needs to be “set up” before calls).

Money requests

The criminals then tell the victim that they cannot make bank transfers due to the change in phone devices and ask for help in doing an “urgent transfer”. They will then say they can pay back the victim/relative in a matter of days once their internet banking is set up on the new phone.

“The amounts demanded range between €2,500 to €4,600 currently”, the police said.

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

What makes the con particularly tricky is that the scammers can find pictures of the family members they are impersonating online. So, the victim receives a message “Hello, Mom, this is my new phone number” from a WhatsApp number with their son’s photo, for example.

How do I avoid falling for this (and other) scams?

The Austrian police reiterated that you should never transfer sums of money without cross-checking. “Try to reach the person concerned in person”, they said.

“Contact the person concerned by calling him or her back at the telephone number you normally use”, the police added.

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

Additionally, the authorities recommend that people do not use the voice call function of the messenger service to contact criminals by phone and do not, under any circumstances, pay any money. “Consider whether the transfer is at all plausible for the person concerned (reason for payment, amount etc.)”, they said.

Finally, do not disclose any access data or your bank details. Report the sender of the messages to the corresponding messenger service and block the phone number.

“If damage has already occurred, file a complaint at the nearest police station”, the Austrian authorities said.

Member comments

  1. Scammers are shameless. I got an email from a friend last night who died years ago. Wouldn’t you know it, she needed money. 😉 I wish there was an easy way to find these people and punish them.

    1. I’m sorry that happened, it must have been especially hurtful.

      This particular WhatsApp scam has been going on in my home country for a while now, twice my mum got messages from “me” asking her for money… It’s hard to find or punish them, but she did give them an earful 🤣

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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.