The group, from the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), saw their lucrative scheme come to an end when police cracked their scheme after months of investigating.
Two key suspects are in custody, suspected of running a “very complicated scam” from call centres abroad, said state prosecutor Alexander Dierselhuis. Tricking 30,000 people earned the gang around €4 million.
He added that there were charges opened against six members of the gang. The leader is thought to be a 35-year-old man. He had, it is believed, call centres in Turkey, Bulgaria and Macedonia.
The scam involved ringing up people and tricking them into playing a betting game over the phone. Key targets were older people, some of whom the gang would ring 15 to 20 times a day, said Dierselhuis.
Older people can be easier to convince to pay “because they are scared of reprisal,” said Claus Rehmann, head of the NRW committee set up to investigate the case.
The suspects would also ring up about fake bank notes – threatening recipients with freezing their accounts if they did not pay a fine.
“We think there are dozens of gangs like this who follow this call centre model,” said Dierselhuis.
Figures from the Federal Criminal Office suggest this is not a new phenomena. Since 2008 around 300,000 people have fallen foul of phone scams – for which they paid €31 million. Although experts believe these figures are, in reality, much higher.