Beware of police imposters; several attempted spoofing cases

26/03/2020 (15:45)
Public Prosecutor’s Office

During the last few days, around a dozen people have called the emergency number of the Cantonal Police on 117 to report having been asked by a “detective”, “police officer”, “commissioner” or by the “public prosecutor’s office” to hand over money or valuables for security reasons. The culprits are again referring to the current coronavirus crisis under the assumption that older people will now be keeping larger amounts of cash at home.     

The culprits’ modus operandi:

The culprits pretend to be police or plain-clothes detectives. The callers, who speak standard German and for some time now also Swiss German, use a fake phone number[1] to make contact with potential victims. When they call, an official number appears on the telephone display, for example the number of a police station or an authority. The scammers then say that money and valuables deposited in banks are no longer secure and should therefore be withdrawn and taken home. Plain-clothes police officers will then come to the house to take the cash, jewellery and other valuables into safekeeping and deposit them in a secure location. The culprits also repeatedly ask their potential victims to personally take the money to a different city or country for security reasons, and then hand it over to a "police officer” or leave it somewhere inconspicuous.

Police imposters are also frightening people by telling them that armed burglars are stealing money kept in houses or that a relative has caused a serious road accident and is going to be arrested for non-payment of the fine.

Advice from the Public Prosecutor’s Office:

The police do not ask people to give them money because of the current coronavirus crisis.

The police generally do not ask people to withdraw money from banks or financial institutions.

They are even less likely to ask people to take money to a different canton or abroad for security reasons.

The police do not ask people to hand over their money, jewellery or other valuables.

If you have even the slightest doubt about whether somebody is a genuine police officer, you should immediately contact the Cantonal Police on the emergency number 117.

The police do not ask for money to prevent somebody from being arrested.

Recommendations from the Public Prosecutor’s Office

Be distrustful of unknown callers or strangers who speak to you in the street.

If you are contacted by a suspicious person or somebody pretending to be a relative (grandparent scam), you should tell the police immediately on the emergency number 117.

Do not let strangers into your apartment or house.

Do not give any information about your financial situation or any money, jewellery or valuables you have.

Do not keep large amounts of cash at home.

Do not tell people that you live alone. 

Do not give people any information about your age, marital status, job or health.

Do not give anyone your credit card numbers, pin codes, passwords or bank card numbers.

Do not let strangers use your PC or smartphone.

If somebody is impersonating a police officer or plain-clothes detective and asks you to withdraw money from a bank or financial institution and hand it over to a plain-clothes official for security reasons, you should inform the police immediately on the emergency number 117.

If you have been the victim of one of these fraud scams (police imposter, grandparent fraud, etc.) you should contact the police immediately.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office refers to a flyer [2] from the Cantonal Police about police imposters.

[1]“Call ID spoofing”: This is “theft” of somebody else’s telephone number. The caller transmits the wrong telephone number along with the telephone signal, usually via internet telephony (Voice Over IP). This conceals the caller’s true identity from the recipient of the call. Most calls come from abroad.