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Gardaí 'powerless' to hunt down scammers who text from abroad


Garda Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan addressed webinar

Garda Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan addressed webinar

Garda Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan addressed webinar

The gardaí are effectively powerless to trace massive texting scams originating from abroad that target consumers in Ireland, according to the head of the National Economic Crime Bureau.

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.

Addressing a PwC webinar yesterday, Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan said: "We're seeing servers used for some of these attacks in Asia and far-off countries."

He added that criminals often use "bullet-proof servers", where it is 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 and we're having great difficulty in identifying who purchased the bulk of those text messages," he said.

"Even when we do find out, often it is somebody who has been duped one way or the other into getting involved in a business with somebody."

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.

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"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 was at a "record high", fuelled by cyber crime.

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

"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 internal company frauds that had been committed would often be exposed during a recession. She said that could be a result of changing cashflows, for example.

Chief Supt Lordan said frauds did not have to involve a relatively high amount of money in order for small businesses to 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.

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