Gardaí issue warning on investment fraud amid 120% surge in reports of scams

Losses start at €1,000, the majority are in excess of €40,000, representing a person’s life savings or pension lump sum

Sam Matthews

Reporter:

Sam Matthews

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Gardaí are urging the public to be aware of investment fraud scams with a 120% increase in such scams during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Common investment scams may include lucrative investment opportunities such as shares, bonds, cryptocurrencies, rare metals, overseas land investments or alternative energy

"Unfortunately such scams are becoming more prevalent, particularly during the pandemic due to increased online traffic and targeting of the general public by criminals using ever increasingly sophisticated means," say gardaí.

What is investment fraud?
An investment fraud scam is a fraud where criminals pose as investment managers, promise quick and high rates of return, and simply steal your money. The fraudster uses various investment schemes such as in rare metals, overseas property, and alternative energy schemes such as carbon credits and forestry. Promises are made of fast, enormous returns, once in a lifetime opportunities and can be seen to be endorsed by reputable business people or celebrities but this is without their knowledge

How to identify an investment fraud?
Nearly all recent crimes involve virtual assets such as bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Many people online are responding to pop-up adds, following advice received via social media or they seek out investment advice on the internet and follow links to company sites which appear to be professional. Quite often these fraudulent sites are hosted well beyond the EU or are companies registered in unregulated jurisdictions.

There is a huge element of aggressive, hard selling associated with investments frauds. Professional charts and graphs are used to show how much money the victim will make.

Once the victim is duped into a fraudulent investment, there are many means by which the criminal can steal funds from the victims account – including via remote access to the victim’s computer, receipt of personal information, bank accounts and photographic identification. False investments are made on behalf of the victim while the criminal transfers and steals the money.

Losses start at €1,000, the majority are in excess of €40,000, representing a person’s life savings or pension lump sum.

"During Covid-19 times, we have seen a nearly 120% increase in this type of crime," said Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan.

"We know that this crime is underreported as victims will often be embarrassed or ashamed at having been caught out. One case involved a retired professional from the Midlands who lost his entire pension and savings of nearly quarter of a million euro. Our advice is simple, don’t respond to unsolicited approaches, be wary of wild claims, and never ever let anyone have remote access to your computer. "

How to avoid Investment Fraud scams?

• If it is too good to be true, it probably is
• Do your own research and be wary of wild claims
o Always seek independent financial and legal advice before making any investments
o Check the various registers on the Central Bank of Ireland’s website
o Use regulated investment firms where possible (Virtual assets are not currently regulated in Ireland)
• Do not respond to unsolicited approaches or cold-calls
• Don’t click on links for websites that you don’t know
• Never ever disclose your bank account passwords or codes
• Never allow anyone remote access to your computer.

Further information on investment and other fraud types can be found on www.garda.ieand www.fraudSMART.ie