Germany is being hit by a massive phone scam campaign where callers pose as representatives of Europol (the European Union’s law enforcement agency) or Interpol (the International Criminal Police Organization). The scammers commonly threaten victims with arrest unless they immediately pay a fine — or at least get them to reveal sensitive information such as a bank account number.
Hiya sees a surge in scam activity
Germany had already been experiencing a growing problem with spam and fraud calls. Hiya’s State of the Call Europe 2022 report shows that Germans received 5.9 billion spam and fraud calls last year.
In March of this year, Hiya first began receiving reports of the Europol and Interpol scam from Germans using Hiya Protect through their mobile phone device manufacturer. By August, hundreds of reports were coming in. It has quickly become the #1 phone scam in Germany.
Here’s a sampling of what users are reporting to Hiya (translated from German):
- “Caller says it is Europol and my identification information was stolen.”
- “Recorded announcement pretends to be from Europol and a crime has been committed with my ID card. It prompts me to press a number for more information.”
- “Recorded message in English, allegedly from Europol, saying my identity has been abused.”
- “[They] keep calling, again and again, saying Europol.”
According to a recent article in The Guardian, the Europol scam has hit thousands of Germans and has defrauded them out of millions of Euros. The article notes that Germany’s telecommunications regulator has found that the calls arrive in Germany through networks in other countries and it’s likely they are routed through several different countries to cover the scammers’ tracks. Phone numbers are often spoofed so they appear to be coming from in-country.
How Hiya fights similar attacks
“This scam campaign is massive,” said Jonathan Nelson, Director of Product Management for Hiya Protect. “This is the German equivalent of the auto warranty scam in the U.S.,” he said, referring to the #1 phone scam campaign in the U.S. in 2021.
Nelson notes that Hiya has been very successful in blocking auto warranty scam calls for phone carriers who integrate Hiya Protect into their network. A study confirmed that Hiya was able to correctly identify 87% of auto warranty scam calls. One advantage is Hiya’s use of Adaptive AI, which uses machine learning to identify the patterns of scam calls.
Nelson offers this advice to Germans to help them avoid falling for the Europol/Interpol scam:
- Don’t trust the phone number shown on your caller ID. Nelson says the scammers initially used unassigned numbers but are now spoofing legitimate mobile numbers in Germany.
- If you receive an unexpected call from someone who says they’re from Europol or Interpol, assume it’s a scam. If you think the call could be legitimate, look up the phone number for Europol or Interpol and dial that number.
- Never give out personal information to anyone who calls you on the phone. Neither Europol nor Interpol will call you demanding immediate payment. And they’ll certainly never request payment with cryptocurrency or gift cards — that’s always a scam.
- Talk to your phone carrier to see if they offer scam and spam blocking capabilities. If not, suggest that they consider adding Hiya Protect.
Carriers can protect their customers from phone scams by adding Hiya Protect, which blocks or labels spam and scam calls with high accuracy, without blocking important calls. It is used by phone carriers, mobile phone manufacturers, and network providers who are looking to create a differentiated voice offering and increase customer satisfaction.
Enterprises can help their customers feel safe answering the phone by adding Hiya Connect, which enables businesses to display their company name, logo, and reason for the call on the recipient’s mobile phone. Branded caller ID identifies who is calling so customers will not be afraid to answer their phones.