Wednesday 21 February 2018

Gardai focus on eastern Europe in credit card fraud investigation

MAEVE SHEEHAN

THE GARDA fraud squad has joined international police forces in trying to track down the gang that stole credit card and bank details of tens of thousands of Irish people.

Detectives investigating the audacious theft of personal details of customers began making inquiries through Interpol and Europol's dedicated cyber crime unit following one of the biggest personal security breaches in the history of the State.

Suspicion is now centring on eastern European cyber hackers, as investigators focus inquiries abroad.

Informed sources revealed that the hacking is believed to have occurred on October 18 when hackers broke into the database of a marketing firm, Loyaltybuild in Co Clare.

The crime was not detected until October 25, giving ample time for the criminals to make use of the 376,000 credit card details stolen from the database.

News of the breach broke only last week, when the firm, Loyaltybuild, which is based in Ennis, Co Clare, confirmed that it had been targeted in what it called a sophisticated criminal attack.

Loyaltybuild runs loyalty holiday deals for customers of some of Ireland's biggest retailers and insurers.

Around 1.5 million people in Ireland and Europe are believed to have had their details compromised.

This includes the credit card and debit card details of 376,000 people. More than 70,000 customers of SuperValu and Axa have been affected, as have more than 6,000 ESB customers and smaller numbers of clients of Clerys, Centra, Pigsback, Postbank and Stena Line.

The Data Protection Commissioner, Billy Hawkes, has urged customers to monitor their accounts and to contact their banks if they notice any unusual activity. He told RTE: "We now know the criminals involved have all the information needed to use the credit cards of the people concerned to make purchases."

Loyaltybuild stopped taking bookings last week and effectively shut down its operation to deal with the security crisis. The company has launched its own investigation and said it appeared that several batches of information may have been stolen from its computers.

Informed sources said the information that was stolen by the cyber gang included details of transactions going back over two years.

Sunday Independent

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