Public warned of scam with ‘no return’

Almost €80,000 has been defrauded from five bank card holders in a new type of “elaborate” scam that has hit the country in the last couple of weeks.

Gardaí moved yesterday to issue an early alert to people given its sudden emergence, which has seen one individual losing €38,000.

Under the scam, known as Vishing, the fraudsters contacting people by phone ensnare people into transferring funds out of their accounts to accounts abroad.

The Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) told the Irish Examiner that if a customer “voluntarily transfers funds as a result of a Vishing scam there is no redress from their bank”.

The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation (GBFI) said 30 people have contacted a “well-known high-end retailer” about the fraud, although only some fell victim.

The fraud is carried out through a feature of landline phones that telecommunication companies offer customers.

This is how the scam works:

  • The fraudster rings the landline of a person – apparently picked from the phone book – claiming to be the security manager of a retail store.
  • They say someone is in the store and attempting to use their debit or credit card.
  • They are asked to provide personal financial details to the ‘security manager’.
  • If they decline, the caller advises them to ring their financial institution or local Garda station.
  • The caller does so, but because of a feature of the landline system, they are not ringing any number.
  • In fact their previous call from the fraudster is still live and they are speaking again to the same person or an accomplice.
  • The fraudster pretends to be an official in the financial institution or the gardaí.
  • They take the person’s financial details or advise them, that, to protect their account, to transfer money to another account given to them.

GBFI Detective Inspector John Foudy said it was an “elaborate” fraud: “A number of people are at a loss of substantial amounts.”

This included a couple who lost €7,500, an individual who lost €38,000, two people who lost €8,000 each and another person who lost €17,000 – a total of €78,500.

GBFI Detective Garda Michael Walsh said that calls to some landlines remain open for up to 60 seconds after the receiver of the call has hung up, if the caller doesn’t disconnect.

This is referred as “Clear Down Time” and is offered by almost all telecommunication companies to customers who have multiple phones in the house, allowing them to hang up a call on one phone and take the call up on another phone elsewhere.

“This is a new fraud to us,” said Det Gda Walsh. “But a copy of what has occurred in the UK and the US. Basically what they’re trying to do is catch the receiver of the call off guard.”

He said some victims immediately ring their financial institution or the Garda station, but they are not ringing anyone – only continuing the previous call with the fraudster.

Det Walsh said: “For the parties who have lost money in this country they have sent their money to accounts outside of our jurisdiction, to the United Kingdom and Indonesia. They are the two countries we are aware of at the moment; there may be others.”

He said this makes it much more difficult for gardaí to investigate. He said they were going through Interpol to ask relevant police agencies to conduct inquiries.

Det Walsh said the phone calls come from a private phone number, making it difficult to trace, although garda experts were working on it.

He said that “technically, the money has been stolen in the country it lands in”, further complicating the investigation.

The BPFI said the incidence of Vishing was “on the rise” and banks were liaising with gardaí.

In a statement, the federation said: “Customers should note that banks will never contact a customer asking them for personal details.”

The GBFI urged people never to provide bank details to an unknown person over the phone.

Contact GBFI on 01-6663776 or at www.safecard.ie/cardholders/vishing


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