Most internationals arriving in Groningen are aware of rental fraudsters offering non-existing rooms, but there are other common scams to watch out for if you are new to the country.
You’ve moved into your new room, but it looks a little empty and you’d like to add an extra chair. So you check out Dutch online marketplace Marktplaats, find a bargain and the seller asks you to switch to WhatsApp and pay via Tikkie because it’s quicker. Don’t do it! You may have heard that this payment app is almost a part of Dutch culture, but never use anything except the official chat and payment platform unless you are ready to pay for nothing.
And if you’re the one selling, say, your old phone, never agree to receiving cash via DPD Express or UPS courier. Buyers on Facebook Marketplace sometimes request this. You will then be sent a fake email with instructions that you need to deposit a few euros up front as insurance in order to receive the money. If you fall for it, that’s the last thing you will hear from the scammer.
Some students are so used to online shopping, they lose track of their orders sometimes. Then it may be hard to spot a false text message containing a link you’re supposed to click on to resolve an issue with your package. It’ll tell you that you need to pay a tax on a delivery, for example. This is a form of cyber criminality called smishing, short for sms-phishing. You’d better avoid clicking on the link, because companies like PostNL and DPD will leave an official note in your mailbox instead.
It’s easy to get caught off guard if you’re studying for an exam and suddenly get a call from the National Police or the Dutch Supreme Court telling you that your BSN, your citizen service number, is being misused, or that there is an arrest warrant out for you. But just stay calm: why would Dutch officials call you in English? In case they do want to contact you, they would probably send you an official letter with contact details that can be found on their websites.
Another common scam is when someone pretends to be a bank employee, warning you about strangers trying to take money from your account. But never share your BSN with unknown callers and, of course, don’t let them con you into transferring your money to another account ‘to avoid prosecution’, or sharing your bank details. The best way to handle these calls is to hang up, because scammers can be quite persuasive in hopes of getting access to your bank account.
You may receive an email disguised as one from a trusted organisation, like your bank or even the GGD (the Dutch public health service). It’ll invite you to come get a booster shot or a first vaccination against the coronavirus, requesting you to log into your bank account. The scammers’ aim is to get their hands on your credentials. But of course, you don’t need your bank details to get a vaccination and you can make an appointment with your DigiD account. So don’t click on anything and delete the fake email.
We all know that QR codes can be very handy when it comes to making payments, and so do the scammers. That’s why you should never scan a QR code presented to you by strangers who might approach you on the street, asking you to exchange cash or donate to a charity. You never know what’s on the other side of the code you are scanning and the scammers might be trying to access your bank account this way.
If you want to support a good cause, make sure to ask for an official ID and look for branded clothing before you make any donations. Also, you can check out the Central Bureau of Fundraising’s website to find out when to expect legitimate door-to-door fundraisers in your neighbourhood.
Even if the Netherlands appear to be a safe haven, in the last three years alone – between January 2018 and March 2021 – there have been 278,740 registered cases of people falling victim to an online scam or cybercrime. According to the Dutch stats office Statistics Netherlands (CBS), over 13 percent of those victims are young people aged 18 to 25. Have you been affected by a cybercrime? Report it to the police via 0900-8844 or at a police station.