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New telephone fraud scam: How a woman from Bonn set a trap for vaccine scammers

New telephone fraud scam : How a woman from Bonn set a trap for vaccine scammers

Telephone scammers tried to take 6,000 Euro from a woman in Bonn with a supposed vaccine dose from Biontech. But the 64-year-old woman turned the tables and alerted the police, who were finally able to arrest a suspect on the spot.

This time it was not fake policemen or supposed carpet cleaners who wanted to rob a Bonn woman of her savings. "They wanted to sell me a Corona vaccine package from the companies Biontech and Pfizer," Ulrike M. recounts. The exclusive offer was supposed to cost 6000 Euro. What the fraudsters did not suspect: Shortly afterwards, the 64-year-old informed the police, who arrested a 51-year-old suspect.

Ulrike M. had by no means expected this when her phone rang on Monday afternoon and an unknown mobile phone number appeared on the display. After the man on the phone had informed her in detail about the vaccine and the coronavirus, the telephone conversation turned into a sales pitch. "The man tried to be serious, but had a few lapses," she says. That seemed strange to the woman from Bonn. And she sensed a chance to bust a fraudster. "I think it's terrible, especially now in a sensitive situation, to commit fraud and spread uncertainty among the population. That is highly immoral and reprehensible."

Ulrike M. asked for some time to think it over until the afternoon. But instead of withdrawing money, she dialled 110. Two police officers came to her home, and she was also assisted by detectives at police headquarters. In the presence of the officers, M. made an appointment with the fraudster, who then actually appeared at her door as agreed. "He seemed very shy," she says. The man did not notice that the police were waiting in the flat, hidden behind a Christmas tree, among other things - and fell into the trap. The 51-year-old was arrested on the spot.

According to police spokesman Robert Scholten, he is not known to the investigating authorities for similar offences so far. "We are currently assuming that he is a pick-up artist." The task now, he said, is to get to possible people behind the crime through statements and evidence. The police also suspect, based on other similar cases, that it is a gang-based fraud organised from abroad.

However, the 51-year-old, who stated that he got the pick-up job through a classified ad, is also facing a sentence for attempted fraud: pick-up men in the Cologne area have already been sentenced to prison terms of several years. "We will also exchange information with other state and federal authorities in the course of further investigations," said Scholten. He added that one was probably dealing with a new vaccine scam. "In the past few days we have had eight criminal charges for such offences." The fact that they were able to arrest a suspect in Ulrike M.'s case in particular was due to fortunate circumstances, he said, which are often very different. "Whether we are successful or not depends on many factors. This time we were informed quickly, otherwise it happens hours later," says Scholten.

Even though Ulrike M. acted in an exemplary manner and the public is now well informed about telephone scammers, there are still cases where Bonners lose large sums of money. "This then also affects us because we try to educate people, through methods from social media to the church newspaper," says Scholten. Ulrike M. had read about the scammers in the GA, among others, and also told her family about it. "Now I can tell my granddaughter that I helped catch a criminal, just like with ‚Räuber Hotzenplotz‘, whose story I am reading to her right now."

Original text: Nicolas Ottersbach

Translation: Mareike Graepel