Fraud affecting the African community

  • African criminals are opening accounts and credit lines using information stolen from young people of similar origins.
  • The hope is that bank employees won’t be able to tell the difference between two “blacks”.

Several complaints were made to the Brussels police during the past few weeks describing similar frauds targeting the African community. The last such recorded fraud occurred several days ago. A young 22 year old man from the Ivory Coast came to the Auderghem police station explaining that since the end of September, he had been receiving mail from several banking institutions (Crédit Agricole, Bpost, KBC…) thanking him warmly for having opened an online account. Some of the mail contained the required bankcard activation codes. The young man, suspecting some sort of irregularity, found his suspicions confirmed. After the mail thanking him for his new accounts came the bills.

An entirely relative resemblance

“The victim quickly received billing statements on the credit used to make purchases at superstores, mainly Mediamarkt,” recountsLaurent Masset, spokesperson for the Uccle, Auderghem, and Watermael-Boitsfort area.

The explanation: some time prior to this, the victim noticed that his ID card had gone missing (lost or stolen). A young man of African origin found this card and used it to open accounts and credit lines.

What was the benefit of opening a bank account since it would be, by definition, empty? Especially since the criminal didn’t have any of the codes that had been sent to the victim’s address…

The Auderghem police explain that this fraud has a second component. Last April, twenty-six complaints were filed for a scam that consisted of intercepting individual or company bills, falsifying them by photocopying or scanning them, then entering a different account number. This would be the account number for the bank account opened using the found or stolen ID card. “The bill is then sent to the original recipient’s address, who then pays the bill. This sum then is deposited in the account opened using the victim’s stolen identity”

In another case, the swindlers even thought to redirect their victim’s mail to receive the credit cards and their codes directly. By the time the victim realized that no more mail was coming to their address, five accounts had been open in his or her name.

A question of recognition

If the mail isn’t rerouted, how do the swindlers get hold of the money? That’s where things get bizarre. The swindlers that were filmed by banks’ security cameras would present themselves at the counter with the bankcard stolen from young Africans. They resembled their victims closely…. or not at all, and withdrew the misappropriated money from the brand new accounts. They all look alike? It seems that some employees didn’t really bother to check if the picture on the ID card was the face of the man now in front of them, or they checked the identity correctly but not the discrepancies in their features.

The police do not deny that the criminals are counting on the trouble “whites” have in distinguishing between their “black” customers, whose features might be somewhat similar. Last April, this process allowed criminals to divert €340,000.

Even if these cases aren’t rampant, other police zones such as the Matogne neighborhood in Brussels-Ixelles, say that they’re aware of these practices. “No new cases have been brought to my attention. This does not mean that there might have been thefts where the swindlers would have then gone to open accounts in another area like southern Brussels,” confirms the area spokesperson, Christian De Conninck. 

No culprits have been arrested in recent days, but investigations are ongoing.  

LUDIVINE PONCIAU

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