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Cashing in Crime gangs running sophisticated scams are making millions off Irish victims

Last month, 163 people reported attempts by fraudsters to trick them into handing over personal details - five times the level compared the same period in 2019


An Irish person was part of a scam that targeted firms in Hong Kong

An Irish person was part of a scam that targeted firms in Hong Kong

An Irish person was part of a scam that targeted firms in Hong Kong

Ireland is being swamped by criminal gangs running widespread scams that are raking in millions in profits.

Targeting individuals and commercial firms, fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated and are constantly changing their tactics.

Last month, 163 people reported attempts by fraudsters to trick them into handing over personal details - five times the level compared the same period in 2019.

The latest activity comes despite dozens of arrests made in the last 12 months by officers from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau investigating organised fraud gangs.

These include money-mules at the bottom the ladder, who allow their bank accounts to be used by fraudsters to transfer stolen cash.

But suspected senior players in international scams have also been targeted by the specialist unit, which works in co-operation with other police agencies and Europol.

Thousands of bogus calls were made to Irish residents in the last month, pretending to be from Government departments and even the Attorney General's office.

Using call-spoofing software, the call appears to be coming from a legitimate agency with scammers using the same call-centre technology as big institutions and firms.

Gardai revealed how one person lost more than €20,000 after being told they were being investigated for money laundering and were required to lodge money into an account.

In Galway, another victim lost more than €20,000 after being told their Personal Public Service Number was found following a raid at a house.

A victim in Cork lost €9,000 after being told their DNA was found at a crime scene and they were told to send their details on to investigators.

One person, who was asked to download an app after being told their PPSN was linked to money laundering, had €5,000 stolen.

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In another scam, which has been seen all over the world, a Donegal person lost €750 after being told via social media they had won a prize worth €15,000 but needed an Amazon card to claim it.

Two weeks ago the scammers prompted gardai to issue a warning after several people received calls from people claiming to be gardai in a bid to get hold of personal details.

The bogus callers told people there was a warrant out for their arrest, money was owed for a fine, or their DNA had been found in a crashed car.

Personal details have been used to make bogus claims for Pandemic Unemployment Payments in some cases.

Separately, gardai launched Operation Skein last year, which is aimed at an invoice redirect fraud gang where a payment is stolen by tricking the payer into sending it to a different account.

An example of this featured in Naas Circuit Court recently where a couple lost €37,000 that had been intended for their builder.

Within a few minutes of an email looking for the payment, the victims got a second email which appeared to be from the builder claiming they had sent the wrong payment details.

In reality, the email had been hacked and the cash ended up being sent to a number of different banks, including two belonging to students in west Dublin.

They were tracked down by gardai and said they had been approached by a man at their college and agreed to allow their bank details be used. They later withdrew cash which they handed over.

The woman who made the transfer told of the panic and horror she went through after realising she had been duped.

Gardai also set up Operation Parade, which is an investigation into the theft of €1.1 million from a Dublin-based company in November last year in an invoice redirect fraud.

Last month an Irish resident was arrested and charged over a €190,000 invoice redirect fraud targeting firms from Hong Kong, Finland and the United States.

So far, at least 20 people have been arrested under Operation Skein, including Romanian and Nigerian nationals.

Another investigation, Operation Boxplot, is aimed at a network involved in international invoice redirect scams.

Last month four arrests were made after searches were carried out in north Cork, Tipperary and Roscommon.

Detectives established that around €300,000 had passed through bank accounts controlled by a Romanian gang operating in this country with most of the cash not being recovered.

It included a €31,000 transaction suspected to have been stolen from a Hungarian company by the Ireland-based criminals.

Many of the organised fraud gangs operate using the same set-ups as legitimate companies and are well-resourced.

While Asian countries have traditionally been the hub for such fraud organisations, international analysts suggest that half the bogus phones call aimed at EU citizens are coming from Russian based operations.

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