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Friday 22 March 2019

Thousands ripped off in elaborate broadband scam sweeping the country

Has prompted a warning from gardai and banks to consumers

Stock image
Stock image
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Thousands of people have lost money in an elaborate scam that is sweeping the country, prompting a warning from gardaí and banks to consumers.

Fraudsters posing as workers from telecoms company Eir ring people to tell them their broadband is going to be cut off the next day unless they allow remote access to their PC.

Once the scammers get access, they steal passwords and use these to take money from bank accounts.

It is understood customers of every bank have been hit, with some people losing thousands of euro.

Gardaí and the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland issued a warning advising consumers to be on alert for the phone scam.

They said the caller attempts to trick people into revealing banking or card details and codes from card readers to access consumers' online banking and make fraudulent payments.

Niamh Davenport: Fraud expert warned consumers of scamming risks
Niamh Davenport: Fraud expert warned consumers of scamming risks

People may be asked to allow the caller to take remote control of their computer.

However, this could allow the fraudster to show consumers fraudulent screens.

The callers are highly organised and will be able to transfer those targeted to their "supervisor". They sound genuine, gardaí said.

Detective Superintendent Gerard Walsh of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau stressed: "If you have received a suspicious call, hang up, and phone the company the person is purporting to be from directly yourself.

"Do not use a number given to you by the caller and make sure you hear a dial tone before making the call. If you are concerned that you may have fallen victim to a scam, contact your local garda station and also your bank."

Niamh Davenport of the banks' FraudSmart programme said the callers try to rush people into a decision and are effective at making people feel foolish if they do not follow their instructions.

She revealed that every bank in the country had indicated that consumers have been hit by the scam.

It is understood some people have lost hundreds of euro, with others losing thousands.

Ms Davenport said: "Always be wary of any unexpected calls or texts, especially those asking for personal details or payments.

"Never give your financial or personal information in order to release money, refund fees, or access to your computer."

She said people are often too embarrassed to report to gardaí if they have been scammed, but it is important to report each instance of fraud.

Consumers have also been advised to contact any utility company claiming to be ringing them about a fault.

A spokesman for Eir said the scam was affecting all broadband providers, not just it. The spokesman added that it generally does not telephone individual homes or businesses to indicate there is a fault.

Asked about the acknowledged difficulty getting Eir to answer calls, the spokesman said call wait times have been improving.

"If people are using our name, there is nothing we can do about it.

"Report it to the gardaí," he said.

Separate research conducted last year by information technology business Datapac found approximately 182,000 Irish people had been duped into disclosing personal information by cyber-criminals.

It said millennials were more likely to fall victim to scams.

A YouGov survey, commissioned by Google, found that three out of four Irish internet users have been targeted by online scams.

Irish Independent

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