Over €5 million damages from help desk fraud in two years: report

Call center operator
Call center operator Photo: DmitryPoch/DepositPhotos

Over the past two years banks ABN Amro, ING, Rabobank, and the Volksbank received nearly 5 thousand reports of help desk fraud amounting in almost 5.3 million euros in damages, NU.nl reported based on figures received from the Public Prosecution Service (OM). The banks' reports seem to contradict previous statements from the OM that help desk fraud is decreasing, the newspaper wrote. 

The four banks started reporting confirmed cases of help desk fraud to the OM in March 2018. This is a type of fraud in which a victim is contacted by someone posing as a help desk employee from a large company like Microsoft or Apple. The victim is convinced to grant the scammer remote access to their computer, after which the scammer can gain access to their online banking and steal their money. 

In 2018, at least 1,732 people in the Netherlands were victims of this type of fraud with a total damage of almost 2.4 million euros, according to the banks' figures. In 2019 the number of victims increased to 3,099 and the total damages to around 2.9 million euros. ​Berend Jan Beugel of the Payments Association thinks that the actual number of victims is much higher. "These are the figures we can report with certainty," he said to the newspaper. Many people may be too embarrassed to report this crime to their banks or the police, he said. 

In January, the OM reported that the damage caused by help desk fraud is decreasing. Based on the number of reports to the police, the damage halved after 2017 since the cooperation with the banks started, the OM said. But an attachment NU.nl "accidentally" received along with the requested figures, show that the figures have been incomplete since 2016. 

"The OM suggests that there is a downward trend, but there are also figures that contradict that," Stijn Ruiter, senior researcher at the Dutch crime and law enforcement research center NSCR, said to the newspaper. "This selective reporting is highly remarkable. The fact that the figurers are incomplete is of great importance. Because that has direct consequences for the counts. They are therefore lower than they actually are."

According to NU.nl, the OM did not respond to any requests for comments after sending the requested figures.