Crime against the elderly: four arrests in Germany and Poland

20 January 2021
News Article
Press Release/News

This News/Press release is about Organised property crime

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‘Nephew-style’ phone fraud increases in the COVID-19 pandemic

Police authorities in Berlin (Germany) and Poznan (Poland) have apprehended a group of fraudsters targeting elderly people with a phone scam similar to the one known as the ‘nephew trick’. The imposters called their potential victims in Austria and Germany pretending to be officials calling on behalf of their relatives in need of help. They called elderly people telling them that a relative had been involved in an accident and asked them for money so their relative would avoid arrest. 

The investigation into this criminal group started two weeks ago and resulted in an action day targeting the fraudsters on 14 January 2021. Europol facilitated the information exchange, provided analytical support and operational coordination. This operation is part of a dedicated project set up at Europol targeting crime against the elderly.
On the action day, officers from Poznan detained three individuals suspected of making the calls while the German officers arrested the alleged collector of the funds in Dortmund. Digital equipment used to commit the crime (computers, mobile phones, SIM cards) was seized. 

‘Help me aunty, I’m in trouble!’: imposters target the most vulnerable

Crime against the elderly is a growing phenomenon both within and outside the EU. Aside from the financial loss, there is also a considerable psychological impact on the victims. In different cases, criminals pretend to be a relative or even a representative of different authorities: a police officer, lawyer, judge or tax investigator. Criminals ask the victims to transfer or hand over money to cover treatment costs or to prevent the relative for prosecution or detention. The fraudsters even show up at their victims’ doorsteps to pick up the money, abusing the vulnerability of the elderly. As this crime has been reported in several EU countries, Europol set up a dedicated project on crime against the elderly in 2010. Europol is currently supporting several ongoing investigations targeting this fraud.  

Headquartered in The Hague, the Netherlands, we support the 27 EU Member States in their fight against terrorism, cybercrime and other serious and organised forms of crime. We also work with many non-EU partner states and international organisations. From its various threat assessments to its intelligence-gathering and operational activities, Europol has the tools and resources it needs to do its part in making Europe safer.



In 2010 the European Union set up a four-year Policy Cycleto ensure greater continuity in the fight against serious international and organised crime. In 2017 the Council of the EU decided to continue the EU Policy Cycle for the 2018 - 2021 period. It aims to tackle the most significant threats posed by organised and serious international crime to the EU. This is achieved by improving and strengthening cooperation between the relevant services of EU Member States, institutions and agencies, as well as non-EU countries and organisations, including the private sector where relevant. Organised property crime is one of the priorities for the Policy Cycle.