France and Spain experienced the highest scam rates in the EU, 44 percent for France and 42 percent for Spain. Common scam tactics in Spain included banking and family impersonation scams. While in France, package delivery, banking and the impersonation of the Compte Personnel de Formation (CPF) government program were prevalent scam tactics.

Although we have seen these phone and email scams already, I suspect that, as Bachman-Turner Overdrive sang back in 1974, ‘You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet’. The Cambridge dictionary defines this expression as meaning ‘that more surprising or exciting things are likely to happen’. In this case, I disagree, what we are likely to see develop is far from exciting.

Scammers are looking to Portugal

Many people will see UK news and be aware that nearly every day one of the programs will feature the latest scam and how to avoid it. As people in the UK get more aware to the scammer’s tactics, and technology not to mention the police, get better at stopping the criminals behind these scams they will look for new ‘markets’.

Readers are already reporting a serious upturn in telephone fraud calls and emails in Portugal. At the moment the fraudsters are mainly using scams that are well known, and well publicised in Norther Europe. I have recently received the well know scam, by text, “hello father, I have lost my phone, please use this number”. Most of us have seen what would follow, don’t reply! What follows is a request for money to this new number. It’s not one of your kids!

Scammers do get caught

A recent press release from Europol said: Law enforcement from Germany, Poland and the United Kingdom, supported by Europol, have tracked down and arrested the head of a criminal network responsible for defrauding hundreds of elderly citizens. The suspect was taken into custody near London, from where he directed a network of fraudsters targeting mainly German and Polish citizens. While executing the arrest warrant issued by Polish authorities, officers seized crucial evidence such as mobile phones in the suspect’s residence. Meanwhile, German police conducted searches in five locations and seized over EUR 160 000 in cash, gold bars and gold coins, as well as jewellery, phones, and other electronic devices.

Telephone scams are getting more sophisticated

Telephone scams are becoming more sophisticated. Scammers are using advanced technology to impersonate legitimate organizations, such as banks and government agencies. They are also using social engineering techniques to gain trust, such as pretending to be a family member or friend in distress. Furthermore, scammers are using psychological manipulation to pressure victims into handing over money or personal information.

Telephone scams have become a major problem in Europe, with many vulnerable individuals falling prey to scammers looking to defraud them of their hard-earned money. While telephone scams have been around for many years, they are becoming increasingly sophisticated, making it difficult for victims to identify and avoid them.

Elderly are prime targets

Elderly people are more vulnerable to telephone scams. This is because they may be more trusting, less familiar with technology. Many scammers target elderly people because they are more likely to be at home during the day and may be more willing to engage with strangers on the phone. Elderly people may also be more hesitant to report scams, as they may feel embarrassed or ashamed that they were taken advantage of. At this moment, in Portugal, it seems that scammers are targeting the Portuguese people, not surprisingly. Don’t think they won’t get round to the foreign community, they just haven’t worked out how to identify us. Yet!

Brazilian operators

I have noticed in the last couple of months an increase in calls, mainly with Brazilian speaking operators. They supress their phone number so you can’t block it, worse, you can’t see where its originating from. I doubt its Portugal. Almost certainly the scammers are employing Brazilians to address the language issue.

Telephone scams are often difficult to investigate and prosecute. This is because scammers may operate from overseas, using disposable phones and fake identities. They may also use complex networks of accomplices to carry out their scams. Law enforcement agencies may struggle to identify and track down these individuals, particularly if they are operating across multiple jurisdictions.

Email scam filters

Email scams have been around a lot longer but are easier to spot and block. There are several good programs that will block suspect emails, they need a bit of ‘training’ but they are good. I use SpamBully, it blocks several hundred suspect emails every day, and it’s rarely wrong.

For your phone there are several apps for Android and iPhone that will warn you if the call is suspected scam. Just search for spam call filter and read the reviews to choose the best.

A word of warning

As far as I can see, the level of protection in Northern Europe, particularly from banks who will, after some pressure, refund frequently transferred funds has not been enacted by Portuguese banks. Only governments can force banks and financial institutions to protect and refund victims. The new Portuguese government has a lot on its hands since the elections, help may be months if not years away.

Always be on your guard, this problem is increasing rapidly in Portugal.


Resident in Portugal for 50 years, publishing and writing about Portugal since 1977. Privileged to have seen, firsthand, Portugal progress from a dictatorship (1974) into a stable democracy. 

Paul Luckman