THE Guardia Civil claims that it is poised to finally smash the organised crime syndicate which has been conning people with bogus telephone and internet offers in the Balearics and across Spain for the past few months.
The Bulletin was first alerted to the criminal activity two months ago when the newspaper received a spate of calls from foreign residents complaining about having been conned by calls from high-rate 803, 806 and 807 numbers claiming that they either have a package to collect or have won a prize.
Innocent people were collecting the messages and trying to call back to learn of either their prize or how to collect their package. They were kept on the line for a serious length of time or forced to call back on a number of occasions with the calls costing anything from 22 cents per minute to 3'25 euros.
Two months ago, the police arrested two men in Elche on the mainland, but this week, the consumer affairs department handed nearly 400 official complaints from the Balearics over to the Guardia Civil for investigation.
Sources at the Consumer Affairs Ministry said yesterday that the gang is suspected of having conned people out of at least 60'000 euros in the Balearics alone.
Police sources also revealed yesterday that the two men arrested in Elche were targeting homeowners in the Balearics.
The National Police have received 178 complaints in Palma, all of which are now in the hands of the Guardia Civil.
A spokesperson for the Consumer Affairs Ministry said yesterday that people should be careful to avoid falling into the telephone trap and not fall for bogus offers over the telephone. Beware especially of those which leave a telephone contact number which starts with one of the prefixes mentioned above, they said. Furthermore, before making the call, check the cost and hang up as soon as you become suspicious.
Until the police finally crack the gang, consumers should keep and check all telephone bills and, in the case of a suspected fraud, report it immediately by posting a recorded letter to the telephone company.
It would appear that most of those targeted were foreign homeowners.
One British resident contacted the Bulletin to explain that, the day before he was due to return to the UK, he was waiting for a special package when he received a call from an 806 number saying he had a package to collect.
Obviously eager to track down what he thought was the genuine package, he called the contact number.
After making a series of further calls, trying to speak to the person responsible for his package, he grew suspicious and gave up.
He had spent the best part of three hours on the telephone and started to worry about the size of his phone bill.
Most foreign residents in Majorca know of someone who has been a target of the phone fraudsters.