The Irish payments services organisation said the scam artist, who goes by the name of ‘Mark’, is very familiar with the card systems shops are using.
‘Mark’ uses a simple telephone scam where he wins over the confidence of a retail assistant by posing as a technician from one of the card payment services. He usually has knowledge of the retailer’s bank and payment systems before ringing.
Once he has convinced a shopkeeper he is calling from a payments company, he tells them that in order to check their system is in fully working order, they will need to make some refunds to ‘dummy’ cards.
He assures them the refunds will not go through.
The shop assistant puts through the refunds, and is then told to dispose of the receipts. Some shops have reported losing up to €14,000, with most of the refunds ranging from €2,000 to €3,000 each.
The dummy cards are in fact real credit cards from other jurisdictions. At least one card being used was registered in Britain.
Once the money has been refunded to the card, ‘Mark’ can withdraw it or transfer it to another account.
“IPSO advises shop staff to hang-up if they receive a call claiming to be from their merchant acquirer and to then phone back their card processor on the phone number they know to be correct, from their bank statement or the phone book,” said a spokesperson.
Shops contacted by the scammer should report it to their local Garda station and to their merchant acquirer.
IPSO said that what is worrying is the speed at which the scammer is operating.
On Monday morning, Eircom suffered an outage for about an hour. The fraudster pounced on this opportunity and used it to ring a number of retailers claiming he needed to test credit card systems after the outage.
IPSO said the fraudster is believed to be known to gardaí, having operated a similar scam in Ireland a number of years ago.
Gardaí are understood to have an address for him in the South of England, but he has not been at that address.
Gardaí in Waterford have confirmed a fraud squad investigation is under way.
IPSO have also assured retailers they will be fully refunded any losses by the acquirers. The banks that receive the payments will have to refund the retailers affected by the scam.