Gardaí are warning the public of an online scam relating to websites offering unsecured loans.
Gardaí at the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau say a number of websites offering unsecured loans are targeting vulnerable people and people who have had difficulty obtaining loans.
They say the fraud is known as Advance Fee Fraud.
Gardaí say the fraud begins when a victim applies for a loan through a website that offers loans which it is claimed will be processed quickly.
They say some websites claim to be regulated by the Central Bank, which is not the case.
The victim will then receive communication informing them that the loan application has been approved and details of the amount of the loan and the monthly repayment will be provided.
Gardaí say the victim is then asked "to send an amount of money to the lender in advance of the loan amount being issued".
They say the reasons for the advance fee include:
- As an up-front fee
- To pay for Personal Protection Insurance on the loan amount
- To discharge overseas taxes
- To show that the victim has the ability to meet the loan repayments
Gardaí say no loan money is ever received and the advance fee is lost.
Gardaí have highlighted the warning signs that people can look out for to prevent the scam.
They say the warning signs include:
- The website will claim to offer a fast and easy way to apply for a loan online
- The loan will be approved very quickly and without checks on identity, the ability to pay or credit rating
- No hard copy/paper documentation will be required by the lender
- The lender will ask for a payment of some kind in advance of the loan being given to the applicant
- The lender will not be authorised by the Central Bank of Ireland although it may claim that it is.
Gardaí stated that people should never apply for a loan from an entity that is not authorised by the Central Bank and that people should always check beforehand.
The register of authorised firms by the Central Bank can be accessed here.
The gardaí have also warned that in some instances a firm 'clones' details of an authorised entity by taking the details of an authorised entity and claiming to either be that entity or an associated entity.
They say information on firms using this method can be found on the Central Bank’s website.
Gardaí did warn that there may be scams out there that have not yet come to the attention of the Central Bank.