Police impersonators prey on people’s concerns and fears

If your doorbell or phone rings and the person there portrays themselves as a police officer and asks for your online bank user identifiers or credit card number, you can be certain they are a scammer. Police impersonator scams are fairly common. The victims of such scams are often older people.

The goal of police impersonators is to make their victims disclose their online bank user identifiers or payment card details.

Police impersonators often approach their victims by calling them on the phone or may even knock on their door. They introduce themselves as police officers, aiming to win the victim’s trust. They alert their victim to a crime that is imminent or offer their assistance in solving a crime that has already been committed. That is why they claim they need the victim’s online bank user identifiers or payment card details. Some police impersonators are known to have told their victim that the victim’s assets are in jeopardy and must be transferred to the police for safety.

The same police impersonator may be very persistent and contact their victim several times. They may intimidate and pressure their victim to act with urgency by telling them about an imminent danger or crime.

A real police officer never asks for your online bank user identifiers or payment card details

Authentic authorities, banks or other reliable parties never ask for your online bank user identifiers or payment card details. Therefore, you should never disclose this information to anyone.

In addition, the police have no bank account to which citizens’ assets could be transferred in order to protect them from crime. Do not hand over your assets to a person purporting to be a police officer and claiming they can protect your money against criminal activity. 

How do I know if someone is an impostor?

If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be a police officer, you should check if they are legitimate:

  • Ask the person’s name and the police station where they work.
  • Call the switchboard of the police station in question and ask to be patched through to this police officer.
  • The contact information of the police stations can be found online at www.poliisi.fi.

If someone claiming to be a police officer shows up at your door, do the following before letting them in:

  • Ask them to show their badge. A real police officer will show their police badge on request and let you take your time viewing it.
  • Ask them what their visit is about. If they ask for your bank information under any pretence, do not let them in but call the emergency response centre at 112.

Resourceful criminals continuously come up with new scams

Scammers are often quite organised and professional. When people learn to avoid police impersonator scams, criminals come up with new ways to approach their victims. For example, criminals have already advanced from police impersonator scams to a new form of fraud, namely fake relatives.

In a fake relative scam, scammers typically call an elderly person and tell them that a relative of theirs is in trouble and urgently needs money. The scammer gives a bank account number to which the money should be transferred as swiftly as possible. However, the account holder, of course, is not a relative in distress but the scammers themselves.

Sometimes, the elderly in particular are also vulnerable to different types of subscription traps: scammers entice their victims to subscribe to products or services that they do not need – or which do not necessarily even exist.

What if I have already been scammed?

If the damage is already done and you suspect that you have disclosed your online bank user identifiers or card details to scammers, do as follows:

  • Immediately deactivate the user identifiers you disclosed by calling our Telephone Service on 0100 0500.
  • Outside the Telephone Service hours, you can deactivate your user identifiers by calling OP Deactivation Service on +358 20 333. The Deactivation Service is open 24/7. Be sure to also call our Telephone Service during service hours to report the incident.
  • Report the offence to the police.

How can you protect persons close to you from police impersonators?

Police impersonators usually target the elderly. That is why friends and family members of the elderly play a crucial role in the prevention of police impersonator scams. It is also a good idea to have an open discussion about the topic with one’s friends and family.

Below are tips on how to talk about the topic:

  • Police impersonators usually contact their victims by phone. Discuss if the phone number of the elderly person close to you needs to be available in directory assistance systems at all or if it could be unlisted.
  • The police or your bank never call you or show up on your doorstep to ask for online bank user identifiers or card details. You should also never be too busy to do a background check on the caller or an uninvited guest. Discuss what course of action should be taken in these situations and who among the person’s circle of friends and family members could be contacted, and when 112 is the right number to call.
  • It is a good idea to talk about fake relative scams openly. It is highly unlikely that any family member would ask a stranger to call and have money sent to a previously unknown bank account. However, identifying scams may be easier if family members discuss in advance what to do if a relative truly had an emergency.
  • If a scammer strikes, you should not feel ashamed or try to cover up the incident. Help is available. Talk about what instance or which friends and family members could be contacted first if you need help with deactivating user identifiers or cards or with reporting the offence to the police.