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Saturday 23 March 2019

Over 100 dodgy financial firms tried to swindle Irish consumers

Paschal Donohoe Picture: Tom Burke
Paschal Donohoe Picture: Tom Burke
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

More than 100 dodgy financial firms have attempted to con consumers here over the past five years.

The figures were revealed after it emerged that financial fraudsters are now cloning the names and addresses of legitimate firms in a bid to dupe consumers.

Central Bank regulators have issued warning notices about 128 firms or individuals trying to conduct financial business here since 2011.

It is the first time the extent of the attempts by fraudsters to scam people has been revealed.

Most are unauthorised investment firms that are attempting to get money from unsuspecting consumers, according to information provided to the Dáil by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.

Older people were particularly vulnerable to financial con artists, experts said.

"I am informed by the Central Bank that it has found approximately 128 firms/individuals to be conducting unauthorised activities in the year 2011 to 2016 inclusive. These unauthorised firms have been the subject of Central Bank warning notices," the minister told Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath.

Read More: Scammers go to great lengths to look genuine

There has been a recent spate of attempts by swindlers from overseas companies cold-calling investors, trying to scam money from them.

The con artists tend to target people over the age of 55 and use psychological games to trap unwitting victims.

In the past few days consumers were warned by the Central Bank about two financial fraudster operations cloning the details of Irish-registered companies.

The Central Bank said Baradero Global Transfer Limited had been operating as a payment institution and/or as a money transmission business here without appropriate authorisation.

Regulators said this unauthorised firm cloned the details of a company called Baradero Limited, a company registered with the Irish Companies Registration Office, which does not deal in financial services.

Park Projects Investments Limited has also been operating as a retail credit firm without authorisation, cloning the name and Irish-registered address of a company called Park Projects Investments Ltd.

The Central Bank warned: "Fraudsters are increasingly using legitimate firms' details to add an air of legitimacy to their fraud.

"The fraudsters will 'borrow' all of the legitimate information of an authorised/legitimate firm for the purpose of this fraud.

"They may quote authorisation numbers/company registration numbers and links to seemingly legitimate websites and even provide the real address of an authorised/legitimate firm."

The fraudsters often use high pressure tactics when they cold call consumers, like trying to force consumers to act quickly or make decisions on a "special deal".

The Irish Stock Exchange said of attempts by investment fraudsters who claim to trade in shares: "Investors are reminded to be vigilant. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Recently quoted nutrition group Glanbia warned its shareholders to be vigilant against what the company describes as "boiler-room" fraudsters.

Shareholders, many of them farmers, are receiving unsolicited phone calls from foreign companies seeking to sell or buy Glanbia shares at inflated prices.

Boiler-room scams are where fraudsters cold-call investors offering them worthless, overpriced or even non-existent shares. They promise high returns, but people who take up the offers usually end up losing their money.

Irish Independent

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