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garda warning Fraudsters hack into solicitor's email to scam woman buying house out of €180k

Speedy investigations by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) meant they managed to recover all the money the organised crime gang had stolen.

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Embargoed to 0730 Wednesday August 19 File photo dated 30/03/20 of a woman using a laptop. Fraudsters have cashed in on the coronavirus lockdown and exploited the nation's uncertainty during the pandemic with a flood of scams, figures from Barclays show.

Embargoed to 0730 Wednesday August 19 File photo dated 30/03/20 of a woman using a laptop. Fraudsters have cashed in on the coronavirus lockdown and exploited the nation's uncertainty during the pandemic with a flood of scams, figures from Barclays show.

PA

Embargoed to 0730 Wednesday August 19 File photo dated 30/03/20 of a woman using a laptop. Fraudsters have cashed in on the coronavirus lockdown and exploited the nation's uncertainty during the pandemic with a flood of scams, figures from Barclays show.

A DUBLIN-based woman was scammed out of nearly €180,000 as part of an invoice redirect fraud when she tried to buy a house.

However, speedy investigations by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) meant they managed to recover all the money the organised crime gang had stolen.

"This happened just before the Christmas period when the woman was buying a property and she received an email from her solicitor that was actually from a criminal gang who had compromised her solicitor's email system," a source said.

"The woman did not realise she was dealing directly with the fraudster when the transaction took place.

"However, gardaí were quickly alerted to the situation and all the money was retrieved."

In another recent case, fraud squad detectives worked with a European police force to retrieve €150,000 that had been scammed from a man who was trying to make an international purchase.

Invoice redirection fraud happens when a person or a business receives information, purporting to be from trusted suppliers or service providers, that a beneficiary's bank account details have been changed.

As a result, funds that are due to be paid out are transferred to a fraudulent account.

In order to carry out a fraud successfully, the gang often uses information about companies they have obtained through hacking or from the firms' websites or social media accounts.

Sources said there has been an increase in this type of crime across Europe since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Gardaí have warned the public of the continuing existence of invoice-redirect fraud, and to treat any request to change bank account details with caution as those making the request may not be who they claim to be.

No arrests have been made yet in the wake of last month's major fraud attempts, but gardaí are understood to be following a definite line of enquiry.

Last August, a Dublin-based business lost €2.1m after being tricked into transferring funds to a fraudster's account.

However, after the matter was reported quickly, gardaí contacted police in Hong Kong and the money was secured and returned.

However, in many cases the money is never recovered.

Gardaí said caution should be exercised when a request is made to change bank account details.

They said it is imperative that a phone call is made to a representative of the company to confirm the bank account has in fact changed before any funds are transferred.

One of the biggest investigations by the fraud squad in recent months is codenamed Operation Skein.

Detectives are looking into a €6m invoice redirection fraud that led to a number of arrests of foreign nationals in Ireland last year under anti-gangland legislation.

In that case, the money was stolen from companies in Spain, Belgium and the US.

The gang enlisted a number of people based in Ireland to store some of the stolen money in their accounts.


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