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TAX

Swiss banker arrested over sale of German data

A Swiss banker suspected of selling information on tax dodgers to the German authorities has been arrested in Zurich, and fired from his job.

Swiss banker arrested over sale of German data
Photo: Sporst (File)

The bank in question, Julius Bär, is said to have warned German clients who could be affected.

German state authorities have sparked controversy in the past for paying for stolen data on tax dodgers hiding money in Swiss banks.

Monday’s Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that four public prosecutors in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) were planning a new wave of investigations into alleged tax evaders later this year.

These will be based on three CDs of stolen data and a comprehensive list of German customers who have invested their money in four financial institutions in Switzerland.

NRW State Premier Hannelore Kraft said earlier this month the state would continue to buy such data as and when possible, as she was convinced it was legal.

In October 2010, the NRW paid €1.4 million for a CD with data from Julius Bär on Germans who were allegedly hiding untaxed assets. The data sparked numerous investigations and voluntary disclosures.

Zurich banking insiders say Swiss banks have tightened their controls lately because of the repeated purchase of stolen data. The new measures are designed to expose data thieves and discourage further theft of customer information.

The bank did not comment on the nature and extent of customer data sold to German buyers. The thief was discovered "in the context of tighter controls and a comprehensive internal investigation," Julius Bär chief Boris Collardi told the Swiss Sonntags-Zeitung newspaper.

The suspect was arrested at his office in Zurich and has since been fired, bank spokesman Jan Vonder Mühll confirmed.

The row between Germany and Switzerland escalated earlier this month when German papers reported that tax authorities were investigating Julius Bär as well as the Swiss banking giant UBS, on suspicion of transferring German clients' assets to Asia.

The report prompted German Social Democrat Sigmar Gabriel to equate Swiss banks with organized crime syndicates for evading taxes

Switzerland's President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf dismissed the charges, saying there was no evidence of banks engaging in the practice.

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FRAUD

How to avoid the most common online scams in Switzerland

Swiss authorities are warning the public against the most common current online, telephone and postal scams and issuing useful advice on how to avoid these shady schemes.

How to avoid the most common online scams in Switzerland
Beware of scams circulating in Switzerland. Photo by Greg Baker / AFP

The number of attempts to extort money from unsuspecting individuals is on the rise in Switzerland, and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), as well as other authorities, are advising the public to be vigilant of any scheme asking for bank account or credit card numbers.

These are some of the most common scams that should ring alarm bells:

Tax arrears

Geneva officials have alerted taxpayers not to fall victim to telephone scams where the callers identify themselves as employees of the cantonal tax office. The person is told that he or she owes money for unpaid taxes, and callers demand the number of the bank account to withdraw the amount owed.

In case the taxpayer refuses, fake employees threaten the victim with a 200,000-franc fine. If the person is elderly — often the most vulnerable victim — the scammers exert pressure by saying their social security payments will be suspended until payment is made.   

Geneva authorities urge the public to inform the police if they receive such a phone call.

READ MORE: Switzerland: Zug residents receive fake letters telling them to quarantine

Package delivery against payment

You may receive an email, supposedly from well-known parcel delivery services, notifying you that a package addressed to you will be delivered once payment is made.

The parcel notification email contains a link to a page asking for credit card details or to activate a service on the mobile phone by sending a text message.

IT support

A caller pretending to be an employee of Microsoft or another IT company tells you that your computer is infected with a virus and new software has to be installed.

The aim of these cyber-attackers is to trick you into downloading a program that will give them access to your computer. 

In most cases, the callers will also try to sell you software licence or another service by asking for your credit card information.

Competitions and prizes

You may get emails, allegedly from well-known Swiss retailers, promising you vouchers for expensive prizes. But in order to receive them, personal data such as credit card details, name, email address, and mobile phone number have to be entered on a fake website.

The fee is immediately charged to your credit card and, unbeknownst to you, you will take out an expensive long-term subscription to a product or service you may or may not get.

The list of all the current scams in Switzerland is here.

If you receive any of the above or similar messages by post, email or phone, the NCSC advises to:

  • Ignore these messages by hanging up the phone and / or deleting emails, moving them to the Spam folder
  • Never give out your credit card number or bank account information to people you don’t know
  • If you did give your card number, contact your credit card company immediately to have the card blocked. Likewise, if you gave out your banking details, get in touch with your bank.
  • In the event of financial loss, the NCSC recommends filing a criminal complaint with the cantonal prosecution authorities. You can search for police stations in your area and their telephone numbers on the Police website.

A good rule to remember is that if an offer or a deal sound too good to be true, or if threats and pressure are involved, they are more than likely scams.

READ MORE: Swiss public warned about fake emails sent from banks and police

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