Two men from Deventer are accused of scamming at least 24 people out of a total of 82 thousand euros by posing as a friend in an emergency who needs urgent cash. The Public Prosecution Service demanded a prison sentence of 3 years against one suspect, and 2 years and four months against the second suspect.
According to the Public Prosecutor, the two suspects used the so-called friend-in-need scam to rob their victims. They sent their victims WhatsApp messages, posing as a friend with a new number or using someone else’s phone, asking for money due to an emergency. The victims were sent details for money mules’ bank accounts, to which the suspects had access through extra bank cards they arranged. Once the victims transferred money, the cash was quickly withdrawn.
At least 24 victims were scammed, each losing amounts ranging from 500 euros to over 12 thousand euros. According to the Prosecutor, the victims were greatly harmed by the fraud. “They spent hours mapping everything out, to provide the police with information. And then the misery of the fact that you have been robbed, scammed, that you have lost your money. These are large amounts that have been stolen. Many victims indicate that they have lost confidence in the digital world, in internet banking, in WhatsApp.”
The suspects claimed that they were not the masterminds behind this scam, but would not tell the authorities who they transferred the stolen money to, the Public Prosecutor said. They did, however, acknowledge that they were allowed to keep a percentage of the profit.
The Prosecutor demanded prison against the two suspects, charging them with money laundering, fraud and hacking. One suspect is also charged with possession of an illegal weapon, the other is also charged with assault and burglary. Prison time is appropriate, given “the thick documentation, the seriousness of the crimes, the cunning with which they were committed, and the organized context thereof,” the prosecutor said. The suspects should also pay the victims’ money back, the Prosecutor said.
There are steps people can take to avoid falling victim to a friend-in-need scam, the Prosecutor added. If you receive an unexpected request for money, call the person to hear if you recognize their voice. “If you are unable to reach them by telephone, then assume that you are being scammed until proven otherwise.” Never transfer money until you have spoken to the friend who asked for it. If they claim urgent time pressure, assume fraud until proven otherwise – companies never give customers only a few hours to pay an invoice, the prosecutor said.