People taken to the cleaners over the phone and on dating websites

Money.
Money. Source: ERR

Criminals looking to access people's bank accounts have become more active again lately. People are offered fake jobs and victims are even sought on dating websites. Last week, people all over Estonia received calls from con artists posing as bank employees.

A 73-year-old woman in Tallinn answered a call from someone who said they were a Swedbank employee on Tuesday. She was told someone was trying to steal money from her account and asked for her user ID and PIN numbers. Around €6,500 was stolen from her account, "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.

Another Tallinn woman lost roughly €7,000 and a Narva man €500 in a similar scheme.

"The criminals' main objective is to learn the PIN numbers with which they can act independently. It is very important to safeguard the PIN codes. Just as we keep our wallets safe and out of reach of other people, we need to be vigilant when we go online," said Paul Pihelgas, head of the fraud and economic crime unit of the North Police Prefecture.

This particular scheme started doing the rounds last year and caused 193 people to turn to the police. The total damage was over €624,000.

Fake bank employees remain active this year, with 50 such offenses registered in January and damages amounting to over €239,000. Eight crimes and around €31,000 in damages were registered in February.

Romantic fraud also remains a reality. People are offered the chance to invest or are simply asked for money on dating websites. A Tartu County woman was asked to pick up a package for which she had to pay €2,400. Criminals are prepared to maintain contact for a long time, Pihelgas warned.

"Even if you think that someone you've been in touch with for a long time is surely trustworthy, think twice. We have seen cases where criminals remain active for years in pursuit of the money. Their goal is unchanged and they are willing to keep up the charade for a long time to get it," Pihelgas said.

On Thursday, the police were notified of an incident where a young woman was offered online work. She had to download a remote access application. The latter was used to get the young woman's Smart-ID PIN numbers and a €500 payday loan taken out in her name. Criminal proceedings were launched to ascertain the details.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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