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Burglars terrorising elderly for a few hundred euro while posing as plain-clothes gardaí

Sources estimate elderly people have been targeted by the fake garda gangs nearly 120 times in the past 18 months.

Burglary gangs are posing as gardaí to gain entry to elderly people's homes

Burglars are posing as garda officers© Getty Images


A garda operation against organised gangs travelling the country and targeting elderly people for cash while posing as officers has been put in place.

Gardaí are investigating two dozen incidents this year, with rural areas of Leinster particularly badly hit in the Garda Eastern Region.

Sources estimate elderly people have been targeted by the fake garda gangs nearly 120 times in the past 18 months.

The special operation comes as figures released by gardaí this week show residential burglaries increased by 7pc last year when compared with 2021.

The Sunday Worldunderstands elderly people have been targeted in Offaly, Kildare, Laois, Offaly and Kilkenny in recent weeks.

It is believed most of the criminals involved are based in west Dublin.

A number of individuals and vehicles used in the distraction burglaries have been identified by gardaí.

In a recent burglary, nearly €2,000 was stolen from the home of an elderly person in the south-east.

However, these thefts usually net the burglars sums in the hundreds of euro.

“It’s pretty heartless stuff,” a source said. “There has been a level of surveillance, but what has become really clear is that these crimes are generally only happening during weekdays and very rarely at weekends.

“The belief is that these criminals are very much treating what they do as an actual job, and they are taking the weekends off.”

It is understood the criminals change the cars they use to carry out the thefts and this makes them very difficult to detect.

They pose as plain-clothes gardaí and have been described as “relatively well presented”.

The gang members are generally aged between their late 20s and their mid 40s.

While the criminals might strike in one part of the country one day, they will then target homes in a different part the next.

This makes it difficult for gardaí to predict where they will go as they rarely target the same place twice.

They visit a person’s home and knock on the door before showing what appears to be an official garda badge.

The burglars then show the home owner a number of euro banknotes and ask them if it is their money. They claim they have recovered the cash and investigations have led them to the elderly person’s door.

A source added: “At this stage the victim may become confused about what is happening, and there have been examples of the criminals then asking the elderly person where the cash is kept in the house.

“While the victim is distracted with all this, an accomplice will be in the house searching for money.

“It all happens very fast and can cause great trauma for the elderly person.”

Gardaí are continuing to advise people to be extremely wary of this type of criminal activity and have restated crime prevention advice.

A spokesperson said: “Gardaí are aware of an increase in the number of incidents of people impersonating officers.

“Recent incidents of this type involve the conmen requesting to check cash held by the injured party as a result of an increase in counterfeit cash circulating in the area.

“Either that or they need to check the security of the house as the result of an increase in burglaries in the area, but this is false.

“An Garda Síochána will not cold call to a house and request to do either of these things.

“Should you have any concerns about the person at the door, you should not answer it, even if they are purporting to be a garda.

“Genuine gardaí will always provide details to allow you to confirm their identity with the local garda station.”

Last September, the Irish Independenthighlighted a case in which a gang targeted a 92-year-old woman in rural Co Carlow, which gave another insight into how they operate.

Wearing a Covid facemask, a gang member approached the woman and tried to engage her in conversation while standing outside her home.

The man told the woman he was a garda officer and tried to show her some type of identification badge.

He claimed he was in the area to give her a warning about burglaries, but the homeowner did not believe he was an officer.

It is understood the criminal became frustrated and made a swipe to grab her handbag, which was under her arm.

The woman resisted and retreated back into the hallway of her house.

The burglar then grabbed the handbag containing a small amount of cash, but not the victim’s pension.

At this point, an accomplice who had gained entry to the house appeared behind the woman and both men then fled to a waiting car, which was driven off at speed by a third man.

The burglar who had sneaked into the house was also wearing a Covid facemask, and all three men are believed to be in their late 30s or early 40s.

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