Five busted for €4 million in online scams targeting the elderly

Four men and one woman were placed behind bars for orchestrating a slew of online scams which targeted elderly people in recent months, the district public prosecutor's office in the Central Netherlands said on Saturday. It netted the suspects over four million euros, the prosecutors claimed.

The suspects were accused of scamming there victims out of anywhere between 10,000 and 100,000 euros per incident. They are believed to have worked together to deliberately seek out elderly people whom they would encourage in high-pressure voice and video calls to transfer funds into a safe account to protect against an imminent cyberattack, the public prosecution service said. In reality, the money went into the accounts of money mules, who often work on commission to launder ill-gotten revenue.

Police apprehended the suspects in five separate arrests between May 18 and June 3, and are currently being held on charges of committing the scams, computer breaches and money laundering. A search of their homes turned up large amounts of cash, and a number of high-end items, including designer clothing and cars, the public prosecution service said. In addition, the police also confiscated SIM cards, telephones and computers from the suspects.

Among those arrested were a 21-year-old man from Amersfoort and a 30-year-old man from Veendam, picked up on May 18. Nine days later police busted a 23-year-old man who was also living in Veendam. In Hilversum on June 2, police picked up a 25-year-old woman and a 23-year-old man. The five were remanded into custody by a magistrate, but the dates of their hearings were not immediately available. 

The public prosecutors said in a statement that scams of this nature, while egregious, can easily prevented. "Know that a bank never calls to transfer money and never asks for a PIN or personal data. If this does happen, do not cooperate and contact the bank's customer service using the number provided by that bank."

That slight extra precaution can prevent a great deal of "shock, damage and hassle," the prosecutor said.