In October 2021, Lizzie lost €4,000 to scammers posing as officials at the Supreme Court of the Netherlands. This is her story.
‘I was at work and I got a call. It was a recording, it almost sounded like when someone receives a call from jail in an American movie. The recording said ‘you’ve received a call from the Supreme Court of the Netherlands related to suspicious activity linked to your BSN number, press one to be connected to an agent‘.
Lizzie*, who came to the Netherlands in 2015 as a student and now works in tech and e-commerce, wasn’t immediately concerned. She had read an article a few weeks earlier about a data leak at her previous university and thought the call might be related. According to police in the Netherlands, this is the manner in which scammers most likely obtained Dutch phone numbers.
‘A guy introduced himself as Dave. He told me that the police raided a house and found – I don’t even know how many kilograms – but a lot of cocaine. And he said they investigated this crime and a bunch of other fraud-related crimes and everything linked back to my BSN number.’
‘I just immediately started crying. But Dave was so calm and friendly – so reassuring that it was going to be ok.’
Dave told Lizzie that as long as she stayed on the line he could help, but under no circumstances was she allowed to hang up or tell anyone else what was happening. So, she stayed on the line. ‘He even told me a case file number to write down and everything. It just all sounded very legit.’
Lizzie was then transferred to a colleague. ‘She was definitely more pushy and wasn’t as nice. She told me someone had control over my BSN and was now trying to take all my money out of my accounts and I had to transfer all the money out of the account right now or it would all be lost.’
‘She asked me how many bank accounts I had and how much money I had in each account.’ At this point, Lizzie believed they were legitimate employees of the Supreme Court – so she told them everything.
The woman on the phone told Lizzie the Supreme Court could keep the money safe while they worked on securing her a new BSN. ‘They told me within 24 hours I would get all my money back.’
So, Lizzie began the process of transferring all of her money out of her accounts, first using TransferWise, then Azimo, then Remitly and when that didn’t work she transferred straight out of her ING account.
The entire process took over two hours. Lizzie had transferred over €4000. She was exhausted and emotionally drained.
Lizzie’s experience is not unique. Since August 2021, there have been over 12,000 reports of this scam to the Fraudehelpdesk, which registers internet and other cons, but there are no figures on how many people have fallen for the trick.
‘After I hung up the phone, I thought I was in danger and that someone actually stole my identity and was committing all of these crimes. I was even initially too scared to tell my boyfriend,’ Lizzie says.
Like many others victims, Lizzie took her case straight to the police, thinking they could at least track who owned the bank account she transferred the money to.
‘They told me they weren’t even going to investigate the case. The bank account I had transferred my money to was in Thailand and it wasn’t like they were going to go to Thailand to figure it out.’ They told her the only way they would open an investigation was if more cases like hers came up.
DutchNews contacted Dutch police to find out exactly how many cases had been reported, but they were unable to give a specific answer. A spokesperson said that ‘All cases are compiled under the umbrella of ‘fraud’ which makes it difficult to determine which cases involve this specific scam.’
The Dutch police and the public prosecutors department said there are no ongoing investigations into the reports. ‘The only way we’d follow up is if there are concrete grounds to initiate an investigation to find the perpetrators,’ a police spokesman said.
Victims like Lizzie have provided concrete leads, such as screenshots of the transfers, which included the details of the bank accounts she transferred the money to.
Another victim, Anthony*, also did this. ‘When I spoke to the police I sent them evidence of everything. But I never heard back.’
Neither the Dutch police nor the public prosecution department could confirm if they were currently cooperating with any foreign police departments to track where the money went.
Instead of focusing on catching the perpetrators, the main police strategy is based on prevention, a spokesperson said. ‘We warn people to be cautious. We send out prevention messages on Twitter and Facebook and other social media and rely on children to tell their parents and grandparents who are not on social media of the risks.’
‘I felt very stupid for the next few days… I mostly lost confidence in myself because I kept thinking how could I have fallen for it? Even though both the police and my boyfriend told me that these are professional scammers, and they could really trick anyone, I still really felt like I was dumb.’
‘Now I’m just trying to let it go.’
Lizzie hopes that by telling her story she can prevent others from being taken in.
*Lizzie and Anthony are pseudonyms.
If you get a call from anyone claiming they are from the national police or the Dutch supreme court, hang up immediately and report the crime to the FraudeHelpDesk.
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