— Hello, Alla Mikhailovna, my name is Alexey, I am a specialist of the State Services portal. A personal letter has been received from the MFC in your name, how will it be convenient for you to receive it: by mail, in person, through instant messengers? – this is how Ukrainian scammers now begin a conversation with potential victims. The call can be received both on a mobile phone and on the WhatsApp messenger. On the avatar of the subscriber there will be the logo “Gosuslug”. The “specialist” tries to speak pure Russian, but he is betrayed by the fricative “ge” in some words.
In Russia, perhaps, there are no people left who have not been called at least once by Ukrainian scammers. What performances they have not played in recent years: here are calls from bank managers, and from district police officers, and investigators from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, employees of the FSB, the Central Bank of the Russian Federation. Their meaning is to make a person believe that his bank accounts are in great danger and in order to save them, you need to urgently transfer money to a special “safe” account. People believe and translate. Recently, a pensioner from Moscow collected and transferred to scammers all her two million rubles acquired in her life. Then they convinced her that the scammers allegedly mortgaged her two-room apartment on credit, so she also needed to be sold urgently. She obeyed, left with no money and no home.
At the last session of the Finopolis forum, the deputy chairman of the board of one of the banks said that in 2022 a record was set in Russia for the amount of stolen money. In one call, fraudsters from Ukraine stole 150 million rubles from a bank client.
The numbers of the swindlers, although they look Russian, most often come from Ukraine. Modern technologies make it easy to “draw” any number, even from the special services, even from the bank. A whole network of call centers has been built in Nezalezhnaya. These are ordinary offices with desks and computers where scammers work. Most of them are still located in the former Dnepropetrovsk – the capital of ferrous metallurgy of the Ukrainian SSR. The swindlers, who had been quiet because of the beginning of the SVO, revived again.
Who is being scammed
Ukrainian telegram channels are inundated with job offers in call centers. Basic requirements: good knowledge of the Russian language (it is desirable to be able to speak without a characteristic southern Russian accent), punctuality and the ability to quickly navigate in changing conditions.
Employers are not interested in either seniority or work experience. For employment, you only need a passport, and not even necessarily a Ukrainian one – the rest of those who wish will be taught by accomplished professionals of telephone fraud.
“Work, of course, without any registration and work books,” a former employee of one of the Ukrainian call centers tells Life on condition of anonymity. – An employer needs a passport only so that he can find an employee or his relatives in case he starts to mow. But it’s better not to do this with the owners – we all knew that very well. Such issues were resolved in different ways, sometimes very harshly …
The salary of a telephone crook is around one and a half thousand dollars, which is almost space money for an ordinary resident of Ukraine. Place of work – the city of Dnipro. At the end of the ad – the address of the account in “Telegram” for communication. When checking it, a stolen photo of a girl from one of the Russian Internet resources pops up.
Before the start of the Russian special operation in Ukraine, there were more than a thousand call centers in Dnipro. On the day they made from three to ten thousand calls and monthly stole from the accounts of Russian citizens from 3.5 to 5 billion rubles.
“Now there are fewer call centers,” Life’s interlocutor continues. – On average, they employ from 10 to 30 people, but there are still firms with a hundred or more callers. In addition to Russians, we spud Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russian-speaking residents of Europe, there are a lot of them in Germany. The schemes used are standard, you probably know all of them, because we have probably called the whole of Russia, and more than once …
The competition, according to the call center employees themselves, is still huge, however, there are still enough gullible people for everyone. As the head of the Central Bank of Russia, Elvira Nabiullina, recently admitted, there has not been a turning point in the fight against telephone fraud, which means that calls will continue to come to Russians.
What does the scam structure look like?
Inside the office, employees are divided into three groups. The first are the so-called cold people, those who call people on phone databases merged into the Internet. They have two main tasks: to find out the financial situation of the victim and at the same time alarm him, scare him, thus forcing him to cooperate, for example, a person is informed about a suspicious withdrawal of money from his bank cards, they introduce themselves as investigators and talk about initiating a criminal case, etc.
If the “holodnik” managed to spin the potential victim to the actions the scammers need, closeers are connected to further processing (from English to close – to close). These are already scammers with great experience and experience in processing people. They use various methods (by persuasion, psychological pressure, blackmail) to get the victim to transfer money to the accounts of the call center owners.
“Closers” are of two types: some work with the victim’s personal money, others specialize in trying to force the deceived to take a bank loan and transfer it to scammers. The second is already aerobatics, very experienced people, – says a former employee of the call center.
The more money the scammers manage to extract from the victim, the greater the bonus the entire caller team will receive as a result of the “closing” of the wiring. Typically, call center leaders leave their employees up to 20% of the amount stolen.
Another type of scammers involved in scams is “exchange”. As a rule, these are people who know a certain region of the country well, who have information about the power structure of the region or region, key regional figures, the names of the heads of bank branches, departments of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, who know the geography of the victim’s city, they are always up to date with the latest city news, etc. Each of them has phones with a spoofed number, which to the victim looks like it matches the number of the institution from which “men” is allegedly calling.
The task of these scammers is to help their accomplices to convince the doubting victim of the reality of what is happening, they bombard her with their knowledge of which street this or that bank is located on, how to get there or drive there, they name real names. The victim’s attempts to catch the calling “bank boss”, “investigator” or “trader from a venture company” on a lie rest on a detailed knowledge of the “menom” of regional realities. At the same time, “changers” may never visit the region of their “home” at all – they scrupulously study the region or republic via the Internet.
What technique do scammers use?
The technical equipment of scammers is quite simple: a computer with databases, several specialized programs, headphones with a microphone. Their activities are based on IP-telephony with virtual phone numbers and the possibility of their substitution.
“Today, you don’t need to buy some insanely expensive special equipment or be a computer science genius – the Internet is full of services that are ready to solve these turnkey tasks for almost a penny,” Life’s interlocutor shares the details of the technical process.
For example, the cost of connecting to a virtual number service is just over $50 and about $10 monthly subscription service. If you need physical SIM cards, that’s not a problem either, the issue is resolved for about $20 depending on the country whose cards are required.
For only 15 dollars you can get the opportunity to change the number on one tube 20 times a day for six months. For 25 bucks, you can already endlessly change numbers throughout the year and at the same time talk to the victim in different voices: the service offers six different timbres to choose from – both male and female.
Fraudsters usually buy bases of potential victims on the Darknet (the so-called shadow, officially unregulated segment of the Internet, which is chosen by international criminals for their operations). Their cost starts from several thousand rubles and reaches tens of millions – it all depends on the quantity, quality and, most importantly, the relevance of the information.
The cheapest are the customer bases of free ad sites. From them you can find out the name of a person, his phone number, e-mail, and by what he sells, indirectly understand the financial situation. You need to work with such a resource additionally: independently look for the date of birth, TIN, residence permit and other data necessary for criminals.
The most expensive are bank documents, which, among other personal data, will contain accounts, amounts of debt obligations, mortgaged real estate and cars. To acquire such bases for a scammer is a great success, they greatly save time on cold calls and, in general, reduce the cost of the process of illegal profit.
Why phone scammers are not afraid of anything
The main contingent of call centers are young guys aged 18-25. Settling in such firms, almost all of them know perfectly well what they have to do. For modern Ukrainian youth, this is an opportunity – without having to spend years on education and gaining experience – to immediately earn decent money. Therefore, moral issues are of last concern to them.
At the same time, the scammers themselves say that from time to time even pensioners and single mothers come to work for them – the latter even try to combine it with their “normal” jobs for some time. However, this situation usually lasts until the first successful major scam, after which none of them wants to be a salesman in a store or carry papers around the office “for a penny.”
There is still a legend circulating around the city that motivates youngsters about how one such swindler was able to earn money for an apartment in Dnipro by extracting 170 thousand euros from her former compatriot, and now a German citizen.
Despite the fact that the Ukrainian press regularly publish stories about raids by Ukrainian police on such fraudulent offices, there is no information about the further fate of their owners – criminal cases, court sentences, received terms – in the local media. And recently, Ukrainians were outraged that one of the illegal call centers in Kyiv worked right next to the SBU Department. Apparently, it is the Ukrainian special services that protect the scammers.
Life’s interlocutor said that callers practically do not have problems with the law. Office owners always know in advance when there will be a raid, and by this time documents, computers and all related peripherals are taken out of the office, and employees have an extra day off. In the worst cases, after such visits, crooks change offices. Sometimes it comes to the ridiculous: they move to the next empty room in the same building.
“Even if the employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs manage to catch the workers on the spot,” a former call center employee tells Life, “the maximum that awaits them is spent nerves and a few days in the cops. And the owners in my memory never came across at all.