The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau is warning about websites offering unsecured loans which seek an upfront fee.
Gardaí say that a rising number of people are falling victim to scams from fraudulent websites that claim to offer loans without the need for additional documentation. Often, they ask for an advance fee and then never follow through on the loan, leaving the victim out of pocket.
Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that the websites look very sleek and professional, offering unsecured loans which can be processed very quickly and without security. He said these are targeting people who have often been refused loans elsewhere: “If it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is too good to be true."
Det Supt Cryan said that people apply for a loan through these websites and very quickly, often within minutes of registering, they will get a phone call telling them that their loan application has been approved:
He added that these fees are often described as protection insurance or proof that the victim has the ability to meet loan repayments.
Det Supt Cryan said that money is then transferred on the basis that the loans are available for a short time only, with the victim never receiving any additional documents or contact. He said it is difficult to know how many people have been affected by such scams, but that the Gardaí and the Central Bank are continuing to investigate the issue.
Many of the websites claim to be regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland, though this is often not the case and many appear to be hosted abroad rather than registered here, he noted.