Police on Tuesday detained 36 suspects in a massive phone scam after two women filed complaints against the scammers.
Details of the investigation made public on Wednesday revealed that the victims were defrauded $2.8 million (TL 50 million) and $1 million by the gang of scammers who invested the money they stole in various businesses in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa. The suspects were captured in eight provinces after an investigation based in Istanbul where the victims lived.
One of the victims was C.A., an engineer living in Istanbul who was contacted by the scammers last December. The scammer on the phone told her that he was a police officer and her confidential ID information was “stolen” by a terrorist group. The scammer told her that authorities would seize all of her assets as she was “suspected” of affiliation with the terrorist group. C.A. was told that she was required to liquidate her properties and hand over the cash to “police.”
Convinced by scammers who apparently had all the private information about her, C.A. first handed $500,000 to a person impersonating a police officer she met in a park. Scammers called again and told her that she needed to empty her bank accounts. The next day, C.A. handed the fake police officers another $400,000 and later, $70,000. When the scammers told her to sell her house and hand over the cash to officers, she finally became aware that she was being defrauded and sought the assistance of genuine police officers.
N.K., an exporter, was the second victim of the scammers. Like C.A., she was persuaded by suspects that her name came up in a counterterrorism investigation and she had to hand over her money to police officers. N.K. withdrew TL 10 million first and handed it over to the scammers impersonating police officers she met. The scammers kept her posted on the “details” of their operation with subsequent phone calls and convinced her to deliver another TL 10 million. Unaware of the scam for six months, N.K. occasionally delivered money to the scammers who urged her to keep her “role” in the operation secret, even from her family. The victim sold her house in a posh neighborhood of Istanbul later and handed the money from the sale to the scammers. In their latest meeting, N.K. handed over TL 30 million to the scammers. She only noticed that she was defrauded when the scammers ended their contact after the last delivery and alerted the real police.
A police investigation uncovered the gang scamming two women while another three suspects were found to be in prison for unrelated crimes. Seven suspects remain at large.
The investigation also discovered that the suspects purchased 15 luxury cars, a residence worth TL 8 million, a gas station and a beauty shop. The suspects were also in possession of 20 title deeds to various types of properties, apparently bought with the money they stole from victims.
Phone scams are quite common in Turkey and scammers often exploit the high public trust in security services to defraud gullible victims. Although most victims are elderly citizens, some younger, richer people occasionally fall for plots of scammers who track down their every movement and intimidate their victims to not contacting other police officers. Authorities repeatedly warn the public not to believe "police officers" calling them and asking for money. The Interior Ministry regularly sends text messages to citizens warning that real police officers or any other members of security services and prosecutors "would not ask for money or would not inform them about their investigations by phone."