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Gardaí seeing 'tragic cases' of people investing life savings into crypto scams

Gardaí say Irish criminals are moving into the area of online fraud to make money.

GARDAÍ ARE SEEING “tragic cases” where people are investing their life savings into cryptocurrency scams, an Oireachtas Committee has heard today. 

Discussions resumed with members of the the gardaí and officials from the Department of Justice on authorised push payment fraud.

Justin Kelly, Assistant Commissioner with strategic responsibility for tackling organised and serious crime, said “there’s really tragic cases” where people are making huge investments in crypto schemes that do not exist. 

People are seeing crypto schemes as a way of getting rich quick, he said. 

The gardaí are seeing a wide range of victims, the committee was told.

For example, Kelly said gardaí have seen civil servants, “people who you would think would be traditional conservative type of people” retiring and putting money from gratuities into crypto.

“Absolutely tragic cases where people’s whole life savings have been put into them,” he said, stating that these are cases where people are “investing into the things that don’t exist”.

Irish criminals moving into online fraud

Ireland’s criminals have moved into the area of online scams to make their money, the Oireachtas Finance committee was told. 

Kelly said people who are running push payment and online scams are not people sitting in their bedrooms, stating that these are highly organised criminal groups. 

“We know exactly how they work and how detailed they are at each level. This is a huge business for them. We’ve seen because of the risk levels of it, we’ve seen even some of our own indigenous criminals moving from what they would have previously done into these types of fraud,” he said.

Cash-in-transit attacks, which were common in the 80s and 90s, are now rare, said Kelly. 

“We haven’t seen a big armed robbery cash-in-transit attack in a long time. But it’s because criminals have found a lot easier ways to make money and not putting themselves under that risk,” he said. 

“Criminals are moving to easier methods of making large volumes of money. So we’ve actually seen that people who were traditional organised criminals involved in violence, organised crime, now we’ve seen the movement into these areas,” Kelly said. 

The Garda economic crime unit initiate investigations into around 800 to 1,000 online banking and payment scams every month. 

However, Kelly said the many of the scams are not being reported as people are embarrassed. 

“I suppose, it’s human nature, really. There’s a couple of reasons. I think when people are scammed, oftentimes they’re embarrassed about it, they don’t want to come forward,” he said, citing incidents of romance fraud, which Kelly described as a “particularly odious type of fraud”. 

The gardaí encouraged anyone who has been victim to any sort of fraud or scam to come forward in confidence that it will be investigated and treated sensitively. 

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