Attempts continue to be made to scam residents of Estonia out of money by means of fraudulent calls, phishing messages and fake websites, and in 2022, the police were notified of 740 cases of investment or bank fraud, the total losses of which amounted to just over €5 million.
Investment fraud cases reported to the police during the year numbered 267, with the amount stolen totaling a little over €3 million, while bank fraud cases numbered 473, with a total loss of close to €2 million.
Urmet Tambre, the head of the bureau for criminal investigation at the North Department of the Police and Border Guard Board, said that in 2022, an average of two people a day fell victim to fraudsters, and there are no signs of the activity of scammers slowing down.
“Almost all scams are committed against Estonian people from other countries, which makes it impossible to stop the scammers from here and virtually impossible to recover the money stolen.”
“Good advice” ends in great harm
The money scammed from victims moves quickly between banks and different accounts and is eventually withdrawn in cash or converted into cryptocurrency in foreign countries. In exceptional cases, money has been recovered when the person immediately realizes that they fell victim to a scam and quickly contact their home bank to stop the transfer,” Tambre said.
Compared with bank fraud cases, the number of cases of investment fraud was smaller by almost half, but the amount lost was nearly €1 million bigger.
“There’s an endless number of fraudulent investment and trading websites on the internet, and I would recommend that all first-time investors consult their home bank for the basic knowledge and advice they need to invest.”
“Also, never believe anyone who calls or writes to you to make what appears to be an investment offer, offering you a high-yield investment opportunity or the contacts of an investment adviser who will help make the first transaction. In general, this ‘good advice’ ends in great harm,” the officer said.
Scam call the most common bank fraud
The most common type of bank fraud in 2022 was a scam call, where the scammer introduced themselves as a bank employee, a police officer or a Google assistant with the aim of making the person disclose their Smart-ID or Mobile-ID PINs. Bank scams also include phishing text messages and emails sent by scammers purportedly on behalf of banks or other institutions.
A link attached to such phishing messages and emails will direct the person to what appears to be a bank or institution web page, where the person is asked to log into their account or enter their credit card information. In reality, a scam web page opens under such link.
“The aforementioned types of fraud are not the only ones we encounter in Estonia, there are unfortunately many more and the losses are many times higher. People need to be vigilant because scammers are constantly thinking up new schemes to steal money or data,” Tambre added.