This Monday morning started as usual; finished with my morning routines and logged in to work. Then my phone rang and I answered the call…after this unpleasant call, the next 6 hours was spent in shock and anxiety. Read this post as I have never imagined either, I can be targeted by online criminals and I can so easily fall into their trap.
The person, who called me, was a polite person, telling he is from the EuroPol and they have a suspicion, I became a victim of a serious fraud and I must collaborate with him. He shared his name, government badge ID, case ID (Michael Harris, Badge ID: TR1775, Case ID: DC7428). Obviously, I had no idea how to confirm his details. Just in case, I wrote down his details. I listened carefully from the beginning, whether this is a scam or not. He sounded legit. I needed to identify myself moving foward, so I spelled my name, provided the last 4 digit of my ID card. He asked me about which country I am staying now. No more verification needed. As he did not ask full address, full id card numbers, I thought this can be legit.
Next, he described verbally that the police found a stolen car near Tallin (in Estonia), with full of documents and bank statements all having my personal details. The bank statements were showing hundreds of thousands Euro transactions to multiple countries, also they found one million Euros in cash in the car. After some investigations, they found over 10 bank accounts in multiple countries using my personal and business details.
As I was before a victim of a real identity theft on social media, I could not ignore this call and followed the instructions, however some details were suspicious. The person introduced himself as Michael Harris but had a foreign English accent (maybe a Middle-East or Indian accent). Whenever I asked details about what personal details the criminal used behalf of me, he did not confirm. Multiple times he said, I cannot hang up the call, cannot call anybody, cannot speak to anybody, I must not share this case with anybody else. When he heard I was talking to my wife, he said, I have to stop it now or he will not be able to help. It sounded like in the action movies!
He also said, there is a court order to my name and within 1 day, they close my national identity card and the government cease all my bank accounts with all my money. There is an international warrant of arrest against me. I truly shocked. I have always obeyed the law, I was proud I have such clean history. I always passed easily any high level security checks when was working for banks and I wanted this to stay. But what next?!
He asked if I am willing to cooperate to resolve this case. I said, yes, what do I have to do. He asked my patience and was transferring the call to his colleague. He said, he will walk through the next steps.
At this stage, I was already 20 minutes on the phone and only heard about how serious this case is, 3 countries are about to catch me because of drug trafficking and money laundering. Same time he assured, they checked my history that I have no previous criminal history, so at a “very last time”, the government is going to help me to get this case cleared but I have to collaborate.
The next steps became more suspicious. I started talking to a different person, who were talking even more professional, I truly believed I am talking to a police officer. He said, within 24 hours they will send a new identity card to the Embassy in the country I am staying now. At 2pm tomorrow afternoon, a police officer will call me to arrange a time for the new identity card exchange. I said, I am happy with the plan.
Then…he asked about how many bank accounts I have with roughly how much money. At this stage I was so nervous, my hands were shaking. I could not believe such thing can happen with me. Foolishly, I summarised how many bank accounts I have with how much money approximately. He said, I am not allowed to wihdraw money from these accounts as in the eyes of the investigators it will look like, I am a real criminal and trying to save my money before running away. It all made sense. He always assured, he will use the phone recording and my past “clean” history to prove, I am a victim of an identity theft and I have nothing to worry about, they will help with everything.
Finally, he said, he is going to give me a virtual bank account provided by the government, where I can deposit all my money, investments, from all accounts I have Worldwide. Else the government will cease all my money and no way to get them back. This was the point when I woke up from the shock and suddenly it became clear, this must not be real!
When I said, I am not believing he is calling from the EuroPol, he started speaking more aggressively and he asked me to type the his caller ID (phone number) to Google. The number was +31 70 302 5000, which is on the Contact Us page of EuroPol! The same time, my wife was calling EuroPol (the same number) as she wanted to get the person verified who I was on the line with. An automatic message straight away says when you call this number, they are aware of an ongoing scam. She also talked with the helpdesk and they confirmed, this is a scam, they never call citizens and ask them to deposit money.
“Neither Europol nor any of its staff would ever directly contact members of the public requesting immediate action or threatening individuals with opening a criminal investigation. Europol does not issue fines or contact members of the public requesting payments.” -EuroPol
When I hang up the call, they were keep trying to call me back 5-6 times, from different numbers (+37253339496, +37259360750, +37257584720). When my wife answered the call, they put the phone down.
Then, I sat down, I was in shock and in fight-or-flight mode, my blood pressure was on the roof. Needed a few hours to calm down. I felt like a raped victim with so many regrets. Why didn’t I listen to my gut feelings? Why didn’t I used the knowledge from so many fraud trainings at multiple banks? Why did I let this to happen, why didn’t I stopped the call after the first minute?
The same time I was thankful, at least I did not provide more personal information they can use against me and I did not transfer any money. I feel, I could have responded better, more professional. Obviously, learning about something and facing with it in the real life is different.
Click on this link and watch the quick video how to respond better and how to avoid being a victim.