Gambler steals $280K from victims in Austria via insurance fraud

Posted: November 24, 2022, 8:47 am

Last updated on: November 24, 2022, 8:47 a.m.

A small report to the police inspectorate in Saalfelden, Austria, revealed a major scam. A 45-year-old from Burgenland reportedly defrauded Hungarian workers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars to fuel his gambling and cryptocurrency buying habits.

Austrian flag on top of a government building
The Austrian flag flies on top of a government building. A man living in the country organized several scams that netted hundreds of thousands of dollars gambling and cryptocurrency investments. (Image: Dreamstime)

In January of this year, a 24-year-old Hungarian seasonal worker reported to the police station because he thought he was the victim of a scammer. The police found that he was right, and he was far from the only victim.

The ensuing investigation traced a 45-year-old unidentified man from Burgenland, Austria. As the police unravel the mystery, they learn that he has managed to extort money from a number of victims.

Phone scams for fun

The fraudster was looking for his victims on social networks. Since he spoke Hungarian, most of his targets were Hungarian citizens who had worked in Austria and were now abroad again. Apparently, he was able to capture the victims’ first and last names and dates of birth by focusing on those people who had “public” in the user profile on their social media accounts, such as Facebook.

With this information and an intimate knowledge of the Austrian tax system, he was able to redirect the payments that people were supposed to receive. He paid various people €500 (US$521) each to allow him access to their bank accounts. That way, he can split the transfers between accounts and avoid detection.

Through the scam, the man was able to steal from at least 224 people between March 2020 and April 2022. From what investigators have gathered, he took about €280,000 ($291,844).

It also caused headaches for Vienna-based A-Trust, a digital security solutions company. It offers privacy protection services for users that the thief used. The company helped take down the scammer after the police realized what was going on.

In another scam, the man conned 16 people out of money between 2005 and 2022. These victims were initially friends who he told about various financial emergencies. He asked for money, falsely promising to repay the debt.

When that well ran dry, he sought out victims to whom he promised profitable cryptocurrency investments. He even convinced some to take out loans to make the investments. These scams caused victims a total loss of at least €220,000 (US$229,306).

Police arrested and later released the man, but charged him with fraud, money laundering, theft and other crimes. Those who offered him their bank accounts will be charged with money laundering.

Online fraud is not going away

Almost since the advent of the mainstream Internet, some 40 years ago, there have been online scams. Despite increased security measures and better technology, they are still widespread as users continue to fall for old tricks.

Most recently, British police had to launch a campaign to inform around 200,000 people that they may have fallen victim to bank fraud. The BBC reports that scammers called their victims posing as bank representatives and informed the “customer” that their account had been compromised.

The thieves then asked for certain personal details and security information associated with the account. The targets communicated the information freely. One customer reportedly lost £3 million (US$3.6 million) through the scam. Most people reportedly lost several thousand dollars each.

By now, consumers should know that no bank will call a customer and ask for someone’s bank details. However, some have apparently ignored the message. The good news with UK bank fraud is that the police have already arrested over 120 people who organized and ran the fraud.

Consumers aren’t the only ones who fall victim to digital scams. Even some of the largest, most sophisticated companies in the world fail to properly secure their platforms. Gaming operator DraftKings is a perfect example, as it now faces yet another public relations nightmare after a number of customers lost their holdings.

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