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Gardaí say Irish fraud victims have lost thousands on fake news articles about high-yield investments

Victims of investment fraud are usually in their 60s and the average amount lost is €37,000.

Image: Shutterstock/Valerii Evlakhov

GARDA FRAUD INVESTIGATORS have said that members of the public have lost thousands on fake news articles used by fraudsters to lure people into bogus ventures.

Members of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) say tens of thousands of Euro is being lost weekly as the sophisticated fraud entraps those looking for high yield investments. 

The fraud can start from an online advert disguised as a news article with the name of a well known Irish celebrity endorsing an investment.

There have been several reports of famous Irish people who have been used in the false adverts. Radio and television personality Ray D’Arcy warned his radio listeners that fraudsters were using his name in a campaign. 

On that occasion the fraudulent advert claimed D’Arcy had invested $5m in Bitcoin – but he had not done so. 

Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan said that often such crime begins as people search for an investment scheme online.  

“There are cloned websites, if you go looking for investment opportunities they come up and they offer huge return,” he said.

“But it isn’t just off Google search; there is a method they are using where they are running bogus adverts in popups or at the bottom of websites. 

“The advert is like an article and will have a well-known celebrity on it and it will say that he or she made millions of Euro on this, but he won’t tell anyone about it because he wants all the money for himself. Of course it is fake and the famous person has no interest in it.”

Focus

Lordan said that the problem is now one of the main focus points for the unit he leads. 

He explains that in 2020, garda figures showed investment fraud was up by 117% with the average amount lost around €37,000. Some of those who lost money lost up to €100,000.

“The average age is between 60 to 69 years old, more men than women, The thing is that they are not being directly targeting at all; the people are going to the scammers. It is pop up adverts mostly,” he said. 

Garda 3 Det Chief Supt Pat Lordan.

GNECB has carried out a number of publicity campaigns to try and convince people to not get hooked into the fraud, which is particularly targeting people with savings.  

Lordan said that despite the warnings, victims are still sucked and the issue continues: 

“If I rocked up to your house and said I have a great deal, there is a new solar plant outside the town and you have a great opportunity to invest in it; and if you invest €5,000 in it, you will double your money in it. Would you give me the five grand? At the front door? Not a hope.

“But these people go online and see there’s a very good investment opportunity comes up, it looks good, smells good, feels good and people are sending in five grand, twenty grand, thirty grand to people involved who they never met.

“They have no contact number, only a bogey email, and they hand over their savings. And what happens is that their money is swallowed up in what we call an investment fraud. But you are not investing in anything It is not even a Ponzi scheme.” 

High success for scammers

Lordan said that for the criminals, who come from multiple countries, investment fraud is much more successful than more traditional unsolicited emails from fraudsters.

He said their efforts to catch the criminals are made more difficult as the fraudsters have even duped unsuspecting people to host their websites with one such incident happening in Ireland.

“There are upwards of ten websites online now, and you go on to them, looking for an investment that will give you more than 3% interest over the next twelve months,” he explains.

“Within a few minutes of giving your details they will be calling you and it is high impact aggressive sales.

“They will offer you an investment in cryptocurrency. They will allow you to come in quite small, with about €1,000 or €5,000.

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“You will invest the money with them, transfer it to to their bank or cyptocurrency wallet, and after a couple of days, they’ll say how you are doing really well, that you are up nine or ten percent. By the end of the month, you are sucked in.” 

Aggressive

Lordan further explains that fraudsters then up the ante: they contact a victim and claim that it is time for them to invest a much larger amount.

Detectives have seen people put in upwards of €60,000 at this point. 

When victims worry and ask for their money back, they are often told that there is a glitch in the system that prevents them being refunded.

Lordan describes how one woman was recently told the price of oil had plummeted when she sought a return on her investment.

“They said to her that if she put in €10,000, then they could recoup the losses. That was to get the last ten grand out of her and then walk away,” he said. 

Many people have lost significant amounts of savings during Covid-19, and Garda units say they are concerned that they many people have fallen victim to investment fraud. 

Lordan and his colleague Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan both say that there are legitimate investment websites online, but that the sophistication of the fraudsters means the risk to the public of using them is too high. 

Their advice is simple: people should only invest with registered investment companies in Ireland who have been vetted by the Central Bank. 

Cryan described it as “the modern snake oil selling” and says that the risk of using websites is huge. 

“People criticise the banks here and say they are the worst, and yes they are taking a cut, but these scammers are taking everything,” he adds.

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