Garda warning as phone scam spreads

More than €240,000 has been defrauded from people in a phone scam spreading across the country.

In a renewed alert, gardaí said there had been a “significant increase” in reports of the scams since a first warning in early August.

Gardaí said 19 people had lost “substantial sums”.

The worst of the frauds, involving €62,000, emerged just yesterday.

Under the so-called ‘vishing’ scam, fraudsters ring people on their landline and, by exploiting a hang-up feature on the phones, trick people into transferring funds out of their accounts to accounts abroad.

The criminals pretend to be from a financial institution, or a retail store or, in many cases, pose as a garda superintendent and elicit bank details and card numbers from people.

As reported in the Irish Examiner last month, when gardaí first issued a vishing alert, banking and payment institutions warned customers there was no redress for people who “voluntarily” transfer funds out of their accounts.

Detective Superintendent Gerard Walsh of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation warned people to ignore anyone calling and looking for bank account details and urged people to spread the word to family, friends and neighbours.

“These criminals are targeting vulnerable, usually elderly, people, and I want to warn people to never give anyone details of their bank accounts or credit card numbers,” said Supt Walsh.

The GBFI is aware of 19 people who had lost “substantial sums of money”.

The total scammed is currently in excess of €242,000. The largest amount, which only emerged yesterday, was €62,000. Another lost €38,000 while a further individual had been defrauded to the tune of €24,500.

Typically, the criminals ring a potential victim and claim to be a security manager from a retail store. They ask the person to provide personal financial details, often under the pretence that someone is using their credit or debit card in the shop.

If the person declines, the ‘security manager’ advises them to ring their financial institution or the gardaí.

Supt Walsh said a “recent twist” has been the provision of a named superintendent to ring. The customer hangs up and assumes that when they dial a number they are being connected to the institution or the garda.

However, because the fraudster has not hung up, the call remains active and the customer is still speaking to the criminal or an accomplice.

This is due to a feature on landlines called “clear down time”, where the call stays active for 60 seconds to allow people hang up on one phone and pick up a phone in another part of the house.

Supt Walsh said gardaí were aware of a lot of people who had also been contacted by the scammers but who did not transfer money.

He said the investigation into who was behind it was “ongoing” and would “take time” to complete.


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