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Smartphone with WhatsApp and messaging app: Fraudsters communicate in different ways

Photo: Britta Pedersen / DPA

Special forces have arrested four suspects in Bremen who are said to have stolen at least tens of thousands of euros using fraudulent SMS and WhatsApp messages.

As the public prosecutor's office and the Leipzig criminal police announced on Wednesday, the access had already taken place at the beginning of February and the perpetrators were caught in the act.

The search for victims is now underway.

Investigators tracked down those arrested after a victim was robbed of a four-figure sum in Leipzig in mid-January.

The perpetrators posed as his daughter and asked for payment of an outstanding bill.

In addition to this common scam, investigators are convinced that the perpetrators used other tricks.

Phishing in two acts

They sent phishing links via SMS that led potential victims to a website that looked like a legitimate bank site.

Since transfers are not possible using the login data collected there, the perpetrators are said to have then contacted victims and posed as bank employees.

They then persuaded them to activate bank transfers.

On the day of the arrest alone, the perpetrators are said to have sent around 2,300 SMS messages with phishing links within three hours.

Initially, the investigators from the “Shock” investigative group of the Leipzig Criminal Investigation Department located the perpetrators abroad: three of those arrested, aged between 22 and 30, come from the Netherlands; according to the allegations, they were supported by an 18-year-old woman from Germany.

At the beginning of February, the police learned that the suspects were in Bremen, where they were arrested shortly afterwards.

Investigators are currently trying to determine the history using the devices found during searches.

The perpetrators probably sent tens of thousands of text messages in which they pretended to be relatives in need of money.

The number of cases in which genuine contact or transfers occurred is still under investigation.

The total verifiable damage is currently at least 33,000 euros.

The suspected perpetrators are in custody.

It's not just digitally inexperienced seniors who are susceptible to such tricks.

The Frankfurt Higher Regional Court recently dealt with the case of a lawyer and tax advisor who was defrauded of almost 50,000 euros in this way.