Businesses have been implored to be on their guard by fraud detectives after yet another online heist saw an Irish firm conned out of more than €2m.
In the latest of a growing invoice fraud trend, Bank of Ireland this week reported to the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) that a business customer of theirs had been the victim of a scam.
The Dublin-based firm was making a payment to a UK-based business when it received an email purporting to be from the same UK firm, asking to send the payment to a new bank account number.
The Irish firm did their due diligence, gardaí said, by contacting the number supplied in the email, while the person who answered the phone confirmed that all was correct.
The money was then sent to the new bank account which transpired to be in Hong Kong.
The phone number contained in the email was also incorrect and the business was actually talking to the fraudster, detectives said.
After being alerted by Bank of Ireland, the GNECB immediately initiated inquiries with the Dublin firm and with the bank in Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong police.
Following investigations conducted by the police in Hong Kong on behalf of GNECB, the stolen money was secured in an account there.
The return of the money is being arranged, gardaí said.
It is the latest incidence of this type of scam, to which more and more businesses find themselves falling prey.
Last month, GNECB, after ongoing joint investigations with Europol and Eurojust, pinned down an incident of invoice fraud where funds were being transferred internationally.
The organised crime gang attached to that particular investigation has laundered over €3.5m through a network of bank accounts set up by Italian nationals, Romanian nationals and other nationalities, gardaí said.
Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan said that in many instances, the business does not know it is a victim of this crime until sometime later when the legitimate supplier sends a reminder invoice for payment.
Businesses could close as a result of falling victim to such scams, he said.
"It is important to note that victims of invoice redirect fraud range from very small businesses to large corporations, and the consequences of falling for a scam of this nature can be catastrophic.
"It can result in the closure of businesses and redundancies so all employees should receive training in relation to avoiding this type of scam."
The Hong Kong case was solved before the criminals were able to secure the money and ensure it did not fall into the hands of an international criminal organisation, he added.
"Early reporting is essential if there is to be any hope of retrieving the stolen money," he said.