Police have uncovered an extensive scam targeting older people in Finland.
More than 60 people, mostly elderly women, were victims of criminals pretending to be police officers or bank employees during phone calls.
Police say the fraudsters convinced the victims to provide them with their banking details. They used the information to steal more than 700,000 euros from the victims' accounts since last autumn.
Police say they teamed up with banks to stop the scammers and return around 200,000 euros to victims.
The scam operation lasted from October 2021 to July 2022, authorities said.
Five suspects are in custody. They face an array of possible charges including aggravated fraud and impersonating an official.
Suspects told victims they were preventing scams
According to the police, the same modus operandi was repeated in all cases. The suspects travelled to neighbouring Sweden, where they looked for the contact information of Finnish individuals with old-fashioned first names, suggesting that they might be elderly – likely part of a large wave of Finns who moved to the country in the 1960s.
The suspects then called the victims and obtained their bank credentials. They used these to transfer large sums of the victims' money to accounts that had been set up in advance for the purpose and withdrew the embezzled money from ATMs in various parts of Finland.
"We suspect that they completely emptied the pension savings of the owners, as well as credit funds from some. The perpetrators clearly and purposefully targeted elderly people. In several cases, they managed to transfer tens of thousands of euros and withdraw the money almost simultaneously from several ATMs. In the phone calls, the criminals often told the victims that they were working to prevent crimes like this," the lead investigating officer, Detective Inspector Matias Björklund, said on Wednesday.
The main suspects range in age from the mid-20s to the mid-60s. The police arrested the first two in May and three others in July.
Most of the cases were handed over to a prosecutor in early October. Police have not said whether there are any prospects of recovering the other missing half-million euros.