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Gardaí 'powerless' to trace mass texting scams, says Head of Crime Bureau





The Gardai are effectively powerless to trace mass texting scams originating from abroad that target consumers in Ireland, according to the head of the National Economic Crime Bureau, chief superintendent Pat Lordan. 

Bank customers here have been targets of sophisticated efforts to defraud them, with text messages sent that appear to originate from their banks.

Those messages might inform a user that their account has been disabled, for example, and that they need to restore their profile via a link provided in the message. Their bank accounts could then be emptied by fraudsters. Such attacks are usually called phishing scams.

“We’re seeing servers used some of these attacks in Asia and far-off countries,” Mr Lordan told a PwC webinar this morning. He added that criminals often use “bullet-proof servers” where it’s difficult to establish who owns and operates them.

“Even something like the simple text message that a lot of people are getting at the moment in relation to the banking and phishing scams, those text messages are now being bought in bulk in some far-off country that we’re having great difficulty in identifying who purchased the bulk of those text messages,” he said.

“Even when we do find out, oftentimes, it is somebody who has been duped one way or the other into getting involved in a business with somebody,” Mr Lordan added.

Organised crime groups in Ireland have become involved in international attempts to defraud companies and individuals here.

“There is an involvement in a lot of these organised crime groups within Ireland,” he said. “We cannot blame foreign jurisdictions for all of this. We have plenty of those organised crime groups operating within Ireland as well.”

A new report from PwC said that fraud and economic crime in Ireland is at a “record high”, fuelled by cybercrime.

Its survey found that 51pc of Irish companies have experienced fraud in the past two years.

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“Our experience also shows that businesses suffer an increasing level of fraud during and post crisis,” said PwC Ireland cyber leader, Pat Moran.

The survey also showed that 41pc of respondents suffered from fraud committed by customers.

Deirdre McGrath, a partner with PwC Ireland’s forensics unit, said that internal company frauds that have been committed will often be exposed during a recession. She said that could be a result of changing cashflows, for example.

Mr Lordan also said that frauds do not have to involve a big amount of money in order to see small businesses go bust as a result of scams.

“I have spoken personally, and my staff here have dealt with many companies in the last six months, where if the money that we got back in some of our successful cases wasn’t recovered, those companies were going to close down,” he said.

“€20,000 might be an amount of money that’s very small to some of the companies, but €20,000 will put some small businesses out of business,” he added.

He cited a recent case where a company here had been close to folding while it waited for money that was defrauded from it to be repatriated.

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