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Police warn about phone scam targeting international students

The Dutch police have launched a campaign to warn students, in particular international students, about a new form of phone scam. The victims are convinced by the caller to share personal information, after which criminals make off with their money.

This is how the scam works: unsuspecting victims see an incoming call from the Police, Justice Department or Supreme Court on their phone screen. Then you get an alleged employee of that government agency on the line, saying that you are on an international most wanted list or that for one reason or another you have to pay a high fine. The government agent will be happy to help you if you pass on personal data such as your citizen service number (BSN) and install specific software on your phone or computer. These are apps such as TeamViewer or AnyDesk. If you fall for it, the scammers take substantial sums of money from your account.

Although most people realise that a call like this is a scam, several victims have made reports to the police in the last few months that they have lost thousands of euros. Some of them are students. The aim of the police campaign is to inform every student, especially international students who have newly arrived in the Netherlands, that government agencies will never ask for your bank details and will never ask you to install software on your phone or computer.

Extra vulnerable
The reason that the campaign is focusing mainly on international students in the Netherlands is that they often do not know how the Dutch authorities communicate and work. They are therefore more likely to think that a phone call is genuine. “We want to stress how important this is. It can be very hard for international students to find their bearings in a country they do not yet know well. These young people are extra vulnerable and prevention is better than cure, especially as it’s difficult to help them once they have been conned’’, says the police cybercrime department in a letter to Avans University of Applied Sciences.

Perpetrators are pouncing more frequently now that the higher education institutions are opening again. So in addition to the video above, the police have also provided a list of tips that can help you avoid being scammed.

1. Hang up straight away if you get a phone call of this sort, even if you think it might be genuine.
2. If an ‘employee’ tells you to call another number, always google that number before calling it and wait until you get someone on the line who can prove that it is genuine.
3. If you nevertheless fall victim to a scam of this kind, contact your bank and the police as quickly as possible. The number to call is 09008844. A crime can be reported via this link.

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