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Telephone fraud: Experts give tips for seniors – News


Telephone scammers often target senior citizens and act unscrupulously. Those affected, the police and experts give tips on how to protect themselves.

Imagine your supposed granddaughter calling you sobbing. She was involved in a bad accident and was arrested. Then a fake prosecutor convinces you to transfer money for bail.

Fraudsters use such tricks to steal 675 million francs from older people every year, says Pro Senectute. Journalist Cedric Schild set a trap for such fraudsters in his documentary:

In the “Club” we discussed with Barbara Lühti:

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  • Cedric Schild, journalist, convicts grandchild fraudsters in his documentary
  • Peter Bächer, Head of the Structural Crime Investigation Department, ZH Cantonal Police
  • Nicole Flury, mentor for online love scams, those affected by love scams
  • Peter Burri Follath, Head of Communications Pro Senectute
  • Elisabeth Raaflaub, pensioner and victim of financial fraud
  • Marc Ruef, cybersecurity expert and entrepreneur

But how can you protect yourself against it? Police and those affected pass on their experiences.

Tip #1: Be aware: it can happen to anyone

Fake police officers, relatives who appear to have had an accident, fictitious bank employees or staged love affairs – the tricks are varied and the masterminds are as sophisticated as they are unscrupulous.

The police record up to a thousand call attempts every day. The perpetrators threaten, scare and put people under pressure to get money. “They act extremely professionally,” explains cantonal police officer Peter Bächer. “In a careless moment it can happen to anyone. The first few seconds are crucial.”

Tip #2: The real police never ask for money over the phone

If there is one message that you should take away from this program, it is this: “The police do not carry out investigations over the phone, but rather in person on site,” emphasizes Peter Burri, head of communications at Pro Senectute. “The bank or the police will not call you unless it is to make an appointment,” emphasizes Elisabeth Raaflaub.

Tip #3: Ask confidently

A call from the police can initially come as a shock to many people. Nevertheless, it is advisable to ask questions. This way you can slow down the conversation.

If people on the phone claim to be relatives or pose as police officers and demand money, remain suspicious. Especially when relatives call from a strange number.

Woman holds up telephone receiver


Scammers often target older people and pose as relatives. (symbol image)

IMAGO / Eibner

Even if time is of the essence, hang up and call the real number back. This way you can expose a possible scam. “If I pretend to be someone I’m not, I can’t be reached on the real number,” says cybersecurity expert Marc Ruef.

Tip #4: Delete your phone book entry

Scammers often target people with older-sounding first names. Are you called Elisabeth, Hans, Maria, Walter, Kurt, Günther, Margot or Helga? Then you should consider whether your name really needs to be in the phone book. It is possible to customize your entry. You can find instructions and other helpful tips on the Swiss Crime Prevention website.

Tip #5: Talk to someone you trust

“I wasn’t allowed to confide in anyone, they scared me,” says Raaflaub. The fake police officer told her: “If you talk to anyone about it, you will hinder our entire investigation.”

Those affected are often threatened with punishment over the phone or asked to keep their loved ones out of it so as not to put them in danger. Whenever such sentences are uttered, alarm bells should ring in your head.

Tip #6: Go to the police

The number of unreported cases of such crimes is significant, as many victims are ashamed of having fallen for a scam. Nevertheless, it is important to file a report. Do not hesitate to call the emergency number 117 and then file a report with the police. Incidents without monetary damages can also occur on the websites or telephone be reported.

Two films about fraud

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  • DOK “Crime on the Internet”: From love cheats to drug dealers to pedophiles: the phenomenon of “cyber crime” is pushing the Swiss police to their limits. “DOK” shows the global connections.
  • The 80 minute film “The Grandchildren Trick Scammers” is available streaming for 3.90 francs at

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