Phone fraud: This simple trick protects you

Alana Grace

Unrecognizable hacker with smartphone typing on laptop at desk
Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels

Phone fraud, especially the so-called “grandparent scam”, remains a serious problem. This is evidenced by the recurring warnings and reports from police departments. Now, the Stiftung Warentest has published a surprisingly simple tip on how to reduce the personal risk of becoming a victim of the grandparent scam.

Phone scammers specifically search phone books for first names that suggest the person is older. An elderly person may not easily recognize fraudulent calls, partly due to limited knowledge of modern technology. The police confirmed this targeted search in phone books during a conversation about the grandparent scam some time ago. Therefore, if your name is Hermann, Josef, Hildegard, Agnes, Amalia, or Edda, just to name a few examples, you should be particularly cautious when the phone rings and an unknown number is displayed.

The Stiftung Warentest writes:

Scammers often target their victims through phone books during door-to-door and landline scams. Entries with old-fashioned first names indicate that an older person probably lives there alone.

Especially in online phone books, scammers can easily search for first names that are likely to belong to elderly individuals.

How older people can protect themselves from the grandparent scam

Therefore, potential victims should either completely avoid having a phone book entry or have an existing one deleted. Alternatively, they should at least omit their first name from the phone book entry or have it printed with only the first letter abbreviated.

PC-WELT interviews grandparent scam victims – how to protect yourself and how the fraud system works

However, one problem remains: older printed phone books still reveal the old first names. Therefore, you should always be suspicious with every call, never reveal personal information about yourself, and seek advice from acquaintances, friends, and relatives if in doubt. Never let yourself be pressured if the alleged police officer on the other end of the line claims that you must stay on the line and cannot ask anyone else for help.

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