Preying mostly on elderly, unsuspecting citizens, fraudsters swindle millions in phone scams, which have seen a rise in recent years judging by the prevalence of media reports on the issue.
In the western city of İzmir, 235 people were defrauded of more than TL 8 million ($2.6 million) in the past nine months according to media outlets.
A news story in the Habertürk daily revealed how gullible the victims are and how convincing the fraudsters are.
Eighty-five-year-old Nezahat U. who lives alone received a phone call in September from a suspect who identified himself as a police officer. He told her that her ID was used by fraudsters in a crime and they were carrying out an operation to find the suspect. He instructed the old woman to pay money "for use in the operation to trick the suspect." Nezahat U. delivered her jewelry to one of the scammers who visited her home. A few days later, she received another call from scammers telling her to give more money. She handed over more money after taking loans from a bank that amounted to TL 85,000. In the last phone call, she was out of money but scammers told her to sell her house. Suspecting a scam, she notified the police. The police detained two suspects in an operation.
The scammers' scheme is simple and takes advantage of the public's obedience and respect for the security forces. Gang members make a call to the victim, introducing themselves as police inspectors or prosecutors investigating a terrorism-related case, scammers persuade the victim that a terrorist organization, often the PKK, is laundering money through the victim's bank account. In most scams, scammers convince the victim to withdraw all the money in his or her account and drop it off in a specific place for "police officers" to pick up. They also convince the victim to not speak about their "operation against terrorists" to anyone. To convince the victim they are the real deal, scammers provide the victim with their address, age and other information they illegally acquired beforehand.
Police constantly warn citizens not to fall for fraudsters' scams but cases of telephone scams are still reported daily.
There are no statistics on the number of scammers that fraud victims, but most cases are believed to go unreported as some victims do not lodge complaints so as not to embarrass themselves, according to the police.
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