“These organizations make an in-depth study of the victims, obtain data that implies conviction and, in some way, place the affected person in front of a reliable source.

“In addition, they have written scripts that are very convincing and that allow predicting the behavior and actions of human beings, it is a kind of marketing technique with a criminal perspective that works.”

That is how Wálter Espinoza Espinoza, director of the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ), explained, the way in which the inmates in Costa Rica’s prisons have perfected their techniques to commit telephone scams from inside the prison and that allow them to scam big amounts from people on the outside.

According to the authorities, the intelligence work of the inmates is what allows them to access the user and convince them to provide sensitive data, such as account numbers and passwords.

Espinoza admits that, until now, judicial authorities have not been able to establish how these organized groups working their victims from inside the prison obtain access to data, if through the help of third parties working in public or private entities (ie banks, credit reports, etc) or if it is through hacking websites to obtain information on possible victims.

The OIJ chief says the cases that reach them are cases with no seeming connection to others, where a person files a complaint saying he or she received a call from a number, provided the caller data, that allowed them to extract funds from their bank accounts.

The victims range from business people to homemakers, with one common thread: they have all received a telephone call where they provided the caller requesting personal information to bank accounts and so on.

Espinoza advises anyone receiving a call for personal information to hang up.

The OIJ chief says that most of the scam calls originate from the Centro de Atención Integral (CAI) Jorge Arturo Montero, better known as the La Reforma prison, in San Rafael de Alajuela, where family and friends help smuggle in cellular phones, who get a cut of the take for using their accounts to receive money through the scam.

What are the more frequent scams of prisoners?

The Fake Official

The victim receives a call from someone pretending to be a bank employee, asking their victim to update their information, including username and password to their online banking.

Some callers also impersonate tax officials, offering their victims help with the ‘factura electronica’ (electronic invoicing).

Use of Apps

Inmates use applications to simulate that the call or e-mail belongs to a bank or a public institution and request confidential data through these channels. These are low-priced applications and easy access to download.

The Third Party

It occurs when a person announces the sale of a product. They are contacted by an alleged client who tells their victim that to make the transfer requires an intermediary, who pretends to be a bank employee to request sensitive account information.

Misplaced Luggage

In this scam, an inmate calls a taxi driver and tells him/her that he is a tourist staying in a fine hotel, who left an alleged suitcase at the airport and to recover it he must deposit ¢60,000 (US$100) to a specific bank account. He convinces the victim to pay in exchange for a reward, but it is all a fraud.

Protect Yourself

Remember that no bank, treasury, OIJ, etc, will call you requesting personal or sensitive data.

In case you are called and are in doubt, hang up and contact your bank, for example.

If the caller asks you to download a program on your computer, do not do so.

Official callers do not request personal information such as name, ID number, email address and much less sensitive data such as bank account numbers or, access codes to those accounts.‼ ️

If you were a victim of fraud, contact the OIJ (not your local police) confidential line at: 800-8000-645.

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