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Germany busts ‘Europe’s largest scam call centre network’

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Germany said that police had busted what was probably Europe’s largest network of fraudulent call centres, responsible for thousands of calls a day trying to scam people.

An international police operation involving officers from Germany, Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo and Lebanon raided 12 call centres and detained 21 people on 18 April, Europol said in a separate statement.

Searches also took place in Serbia, German authorities said.

The complex investigation dubbed Operation Pandora “successfully uncovered what is probably the largest call centre fraud scheme in Europe,” said Thomas Strobl, the interior minister of the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

The callers would pose as “close relatives, bank employees, customer service agents or police officers”, according to Europol, and would use “a variety of manipulation tactics” to “shock and cheat their victims out of their savings”.

The probe began in December 2023 when a bank teller in Baden-Wuerttemberg grew suspicious of a customer’s request to withdraw a large sum in cash. He alerted the police, who stopped the victim from handing the money over to the fraudsters.

Police then linked the phone numbers used by the fraudsters to a large-scale operation, sparking a wider investigation.

More than 100 German officers were tasked with listening in on the call centre calls in real-time, working around the clock and monitoring up to 30 conversations at the same time.

Potential victims were warned by police, preventing losses of 10 million euros in some 6,000 cases, Baden-Wuerttemberg authorities and Europol said.

Investigators also collected information about the scam callers’ infrastructure, culminating in the international swoops coordinated by Europol.

During the raids, investigators seized cash and assets amounting to one million euros, as well as electronic evidence that should lead to information “about possible further call centres and more fraudsters”, Europol said.

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