Millions lost to global phone scams

Unsuspecting Greeks fall prey to rings offering huge returns on foreign currency ‘investments’

Millions lost to global phone scams

Hundreds of unsuspecting Greeks and thousands of people around the world have been conned over the phone by international rings that persuaded them to invest money in phony schemes. The calls come from call centers in Albania and Ukraine or from cell phone numbers from financial districts like London or Zurich.

The scheme entails persuading people to initially invest small sums in bogus investment firms. Fraudsters also present victims false profits supposedly made by these companies. 

The financial losses of victims in Greece are estimated to be at least 200 million euros. According to members of a group of about 100 victims who spoke to Kathimerini, their total losses amount to about 5 million euros.

The approach of these rings entails deducting small amounts from a large pool of victims, so that taking the matter to court is not worth it.

The scheme is not new. However, the pandemic, which boosted Internet use and household liquidity, to some extent, has increased cybercrime.

Despite warnings issued by the Hellenic Capital Market Commission, the scammers have also managed to establish a foothold in Greece.

The method is more or less standardized. A call center contacts unsuspecting people and an operator convinces them that by investing an initial capital of around 250 euros they can have a huge return. Victims are referred to an “investment advisor” who, for example, gives them a rundown of how cryptocurrencies work. Victims are told that if they correctly predict the rise or fall of the price of a currency (Forex) or any other investment product, they stand to make a large profit. 

Victims are then urged to register on an investment platform and to install remote access software on their computer so that the advisor can supposedly supervise their moves.

“People who, for example, deposited 90,000 euros see a profit of 300,000 or more. But when the time comes for them to cash in on their profits… investors learn that in order to collect their profits, which they are told is in money that has not been declared, they will have to pay a very high tax, usually to the British government,” says International Cybersecurity Institute (CSI) chief, Manolis Sfakianakis, adding that most victims are often forced to borrow or sell assets.

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