GARDAI have told victims of the Home Payments Ltd collapse that the loss of their money is not a criminal matter.
Customers with the Dublin company have been advised that any fall-out from the firm ceasing to trade is a "civil matter", the Herald has learned.
Mother-of-three Cathy McDermott, from Drogheda, says that her family, including her mother and brother, have lost €20,000 to Home Payments.
"When I went to the garda station in Laytown yesterday I was told it was a civil matter, and that I should go to the ombudsman instead."
"I've been with Home Payments 14 years myself, but my mother is with them 30 years, and we just can't believe what has happened.
"The question I have is who gave them permission to spend my money on anything other than paying bills?"
At least two women who have lost thousands with the bill paying and savings company that went into liquidation last week have gone to their local garda stations to make formal complaints about the company.
But they are being told the matter is a civil one and that they should either get a solicitor involved or raise the issue with the ombudsman.
But both women, who listened to the Home Payments collapse being discussed on radio last Friday, heard Ann Fitzgerald of the National Consumer Agency saying that using clients' money for something they've not been told about is "theft".
"The directors should be arrested. If somebody gave me money to pay a bill and I didn't do it I'd be arrested for sure," Tallaght mother-of-two Betty Costello, who had been with Home payments for eight years, told the Herald.
Betty said she has looked at all the small print in the book she was issued from Home Payments and there is nothing to indicate that her money could be used for any purpose except paying her bills.
"Getting a solicitor will cost more money. I just don't know where I stand," she added.
A message on the Home Payments website now says that liquidators have been appointed and that "customers will be individually contacted by the liquidators over the coming days who will assess and reconcile any funds owed to them by Home Payments Limited".
It also says the joint provisional liquidators have established a dedicated customer helpline which is open from 8.30am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
The helpline is 01 497 5795. Customers can email at email@example.com.
"The decision to have to cease operating late Tuesday afternoon was unexpected.
Once the decision was taken, all methods of receiving payments from our customers into our accounts were immediately stopped by ourselves including direct debits, debit cards and cheques received that day which were not lodged," the company statement reads.