A British expatriate residing in the northern Netherlands has become the latest target of a telephone scam, a crime that is becoming increasingly rampant in the country.
“Today afternoon I received a call from a local number (0623441980),” the woman, who requested anonymity, wrote in an e-mail to the International Welcome Center North. “As I picked the call there was an automatic voice message saying that my BSN [social security] number has been disconnected due to suspicious activity, and for more information dial 1. Then as I dialed 1, a lady spoke in fairly good English. She said that she is working in the police department and there has been a notice sent out to investigate if I am involved in any unlawful activities. I asked her what made her say so. She said that there is a car that has been found in the north border of Netherlands and upon search they found documents bearing my BSN no and other bank accounts where suspicious activities took place. So she asked me if I have visited Amsterdam recently and I said a no.”
The caller selected her words carefully not to arouse suspicion, and gave information only when asked for. So her victim wasn’t immediately concerned.
“She asked me if I have 3 or 4 different bank accounts and that I have made any transactions. I said no transactions has been done and I have only one account that I opened two days ago.
She asked for my name, post code and last 3 digits of my BSN; which I gave thinking that it’s a call from police station. She said she will update the facts and clear the charge. She even said that her colleague will call me up to confirm with me again. I asked her for her name and she said her name is Esther something. I was so unsure and terrified at that moment that I couldn’t think of anything but to support her inquiry.”
It is not the first time expatriates, who live and work in the northern provinces, have been the target of a sophisticated telephone scam in which the callers pose as government agencies – entities that people are likely to trust with personal and financial information.. A few years ago, an international employee and a researcher at the University of Groningen were phoned by scammers, posing as employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and threatened with deportation, detention or a fine.
Last November, the anti-fraud hotline Fraudehelpdesk warned to be extra-vigilant after telephone scammers had targeted thousands of English-speaking internationals in the Netherlands.
The Fraudehelpdesk advised:
– to remain alert for future telephone calls or text messages and not to call back telephone numbers that are unknown to you,
– to never transfer funds based on a message or phone call, as legitimate authorities do not require that
– not to pass on information or download software at the request of an unknown person.