By Louise Walsh
The theft of €70,000 from a Meath factory in the last six weeks in a bogus email scam is the latest in a growing rise of online fraud across the country, according to a Garda Crime Prevention Officer.
Meath's Crime Prevention Officer Sgt Dean Kerins has organised the biggest security exhibitions ever staged by gardai in Ireland, in order to address rising rates of online fraud and cybercrime as well as thefts from farms and tradespeople's vehicles.
In the latest bogus email scam in the county, a businessman's payment for construction work on his premises was redirected at the last minute by scammers who hoodwinked the company out of €70,000.
Gardaí managed to recover half of the money before it left the country and investigations are ongoing.
This type of scam hit the headlines in recent years when Meath Co. Council was duped out of €4.3m, which was later retrieved in Hong Kong - but thieves have turned their attention to the small to medium businesses.
"We have seen a small but growing number of cases like this in Meath in recent times where business people have been hit for tens of thousands of euro.
"The business gets work done and get an invoice. Just before they pay for the invoice, they receive a bogus email by scammers pretending to be the payee saying they've just changed their bank details and to pay to this new account.
"The business thinks they've paid until the payee comes looking for their money. Both are effectively out of pocket. In the last case, gardai recovered half of the funds in Ireland."
Advice will be given by members of the specialised Garda Cyber and Fraud units in seminars at 2pm and 3pm at the free event in the Ardboyne Hotel in Navan this Wednesday which runs from 11am to 7pm.
Innovative systems to stop thieves in their tracks will also be displayed by 33 experts in the field of all business and agricultural security.
Among these is the 'Fog Bandit Alarm' which confuses robbers by disorientating them in a dense haze which fills a room in three seconds and reduces visibility to 25cm.
The system has already foiled two attempted robberies at a service station in Co. Louth and two break-ins in one night at a post office in Wexford, according to marketing director of Lightsteam Technologies Tom Scott.
Experts will also be on hand to give advice to farmers on keeping their farms and machinery safe, especially after a spate of jeep thefts from farms in Meath and other counties.
Small businesses will also be able to learn about keeping their incomes safe from till fraud and shoplifters.
Meath Crime Prevention Officer Sgt Dean Kerins said: "If you are looking at improving or upgrading your electronic or physical security, have a problem with till fraud, need a tracking device or anti-ram bars, this exhibition has all angles covered.
"If you are a tradesman and want to secure your tools or from the farming industry and want to improve your farm, there will be lots of options to choose from here.
"This exhibition might give them some insight on better protection.
"Experts from the various garda divisions will also come down to talk about how to protect yourself from online attacks and advise on the issue of GDPR.
"It's the largest exhibition of its kind to be held in Ireland by gardai and it's free so if you are a farmer or a business owner, you've nothing to lose but possibly everything to gain by going," he concluded.