Warning as online scam targets the vulnerable with offer of quick loans
Consumers have been warned about scam websites offering quick loans.
The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau said a number of websites were targeting vulnerable people who have difficulty obtaining loans because of a poor history.
The websites are not regulated by the Central Bank.
Gardaí said the dodgy operators are offering unsecured loans in what they call an advance-fee fraud.
These operations target vulnerable people, especially those who find it hard to get a loan from a conventional bank or credit union because they may have missed payments in the past.
Websites offering these loans offer to process applications quickly, and can also claim that loans are available without the need for a good credit rating.
The sites also claim there is no need to provide collateral for the loan, and even claim a loan can be obtained without having to provide any documentation apart from basic personal details.
Some operators claim to be regulated by the Central Bank when this is not the case.
Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan, of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, warned that the sites look very "sleek" and "professional".
There may also be instances where a firm clones the details of an authorised entity by taking those details and claiming to either be that entity or an associated entity.
He said within minutes of applying for these loans online, the applicant gets a phone call to say they have been approved.
The applicant is then told to send an advance fee to the lender. However, no application documents are ever sent, the loan is not issued and the fee is lost.
"It's difficult to know (how many of these sites there are), a number have been reported to gardaí by the Central Bank, by other banks and by the victims themselves. As they're taken down, new ones can pop up very quickly," said Det Supt Cryan.
"It's an emerging problem and we're working with the Central Bank to have these sites identified and taken down," he said on RTÉ's 'Morning Ireland'.
The websites appear to be hosted outside Ireland.
Fianna Fáil finance spokesperson Michael McGrath called on the Central Bank to probe the fraudulent websites.