bogus | 

Dublin-based gang uses taxi and phone scam to steal €300,000 from victims’ accounts

The criminals have worked out how to beat facial recognition software on mobile phones which they use to empty their targets’ bank accounts.

The scam generally starts with members of the gang picking a target – usually a male – on a night out in a busy pub. Photo: Basak Gurbuz Derman/Getty Images© Getty Images

Ken FoyIndependent.ie

A bogus-taxi scam which allows criminals to target the online bank accounts of unsuspecting passengers has hit victims for hundreds of thousands of euro.

People who are out socialising over the Christmas period face the risk of having their bank accounts cleaned out by a highly sophisticated crime gang.

With a shortage of cabs during this festive season, it is feared that the gang will be able to target even more victims with their use of bogus taxis.

TheSunday World can reveal that there are already nearly 100 victims of the gang, which is based in Dublin.

The criminals have worked out how to beat facial recognition software on mobile phones which they use to empty their targets’ bank accounts.

Detectives based at Pearse Street Garda Station are leading the investigation into the organisation, which is suspected of already stealing over €300,000.

“In what is probably going to be the busiest fortnight for people going out to pubs and clubs in Dublin, there are major concerns that there will be even more victims in the coming nights,” a source said.

As part of their investigation into the gang, gardaí have made at least two arrests and seized a number of cars which were being used as bogus taxis.

“There could be up to 100 victims here and despite the garda operation, this gang remains very active,” the source said.

The gang has deployed a modus operandi not previously seen in Ireland.

It is a source of huge concern to financial institutions as well as gardaí, who have been working together in recent weeks to tackle the issue.

“It is a big problem,” a source said.

The scam generally starts with members of the gang picking a target – usually a male – on a night out in a busy pub. Photo: Basak Gurbuz Derman/Getty Images© Getty Images

“This is a very elaborate scam which starts with members of the gang picking a target – usually a male – on a night out in a busy pub or club.

“The criminals then follow their target for the night and shoulder surf them to try and get their phone’s passcode as they use it on the night.”

The gang has also used Google Maps in an attempt to fleece their victims

Shoulder surfing is using direct observation techniques, such as looking over someone’s shoulder, to get information such as a passcode or pin.

“As soon as they see the phone passcode, the criminals will set about stealing the phone, and what has happened in many of the cases being investigated by gardaí is that they will do this by calling up an accomplice in a bogus taxi.

“The bogus taxi, which has ‘plates’ and looks legitimate, will have been parked near the location where the victim has been targeted and is now constantly under the surveillance of the criminals.

“The ‘taxi’ will arrive to attempt to pick up the victim and offer to bring them home. Investigations have established that the criminals are very CCTV aware in relation to their movements in the bogus taxis.

“The mobile phone is stolen while the victim is in the taxi. Different approaches have been used,… including violence and distraction techniques in some cases so that the criminals can obtain the device.

“Once the criminals have the phone and the phone’s passcode, in devices in which facial recognition is a feature, they reset the face ID to themselves.

“The apps on the phone use the phone’s face ID so that enables the gang to get them into bank apps.

“Some bank apps require the app passcode if the face ID has been changed.

“But most people have the same passcode for their phone and their banking apps.

“On average, gardaí have been investigating cases where between €3,000 to €4,000 has been stolen from each victim’s account.

“The money is then normally transferred to a money mule account, and cleared out of that immediately.

“In some cases the criminals have even transferred the stolen money to another victim’s bank account, which makes it even more difficult to trace the funds.”

The police investigation into the organised crime gang has been ongoing for a number of months and more arrests are expected in the detailed probe.

The gang has also used Google Maps in an attempt to fleece their victims.

One of the victims of the gang recently spoke out on RTÉ Radio 1’s Liveline show. He stated that his phone was stolen and €1,300 was taken from his bank account.

“It was an absolute nightmare,” he said.

“Up to about €1,300 was gone. This is an experienced scam.”


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