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Gardaí warns online loan seekers of advance fee fraud

Desperate people looking for cash ahead of Christmas are being swindled into hundreds of dollars in online loan fraud, Gardaí warned.

A number of websites offering unsecured loans target financially vulnerable people in the scams known as advance fee fraud.

The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) has warned people to be careful when trying to find credit and to conduct their own research on companies offering quick loans.

In some cases the person searches for the loan themselves by searching online. In other cases, they are tempted by social media ads or click on links.

“In these cases, what happens is that the victim identifies a website offering loans that will be processed quickly and without security,” said Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the GNECB.

“The ‘company’ will often state that it is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland and provide an Irish address, which is generally not true.

“The loan applicant will then complete an online application and receive a call or communication within a very short time, often a few minutes, informing them that their loan application has been approved, and will be notified of the loan amount and the amount of the loan. monthly repayment. . Sometimes they will offer more than what was wanted.

The victim will then be asked to send a small amount of money to the lender before the loan amount is issued.

Different reasons are given for this advance of costs, such as establishment costs, payment of insurance on the loan amount or by paying the first installment of the loan to show the ability to meet repayments.

the the victim will transfer the amount requested to get the loan in good faith, but no loan is ever issued and the advance fee is lost.

In one of these reported incidents of advance fee fraud, a person living in the Dublin area contacted a business to find a loan. They were asked to post a deposit of € 680 to secure the loan and eventually lost the money.

“There have been amounts of € 470, € 350, € 250, € 140, € 300 and € 380 stolen in the past two months as well, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We also suspect that many of these frauds go unreported.Said Superintendent Cryan. “The individual sums of money stolen are not huge, but for the vulnerable and desperate people who get ripped off, it is a huge sum.”

“Someone who is desperate for money and can’t get a loan the traditional way from a bank can’t afford to lose $ 100. What is particularly insensitive about this type of fraud is that it targets desperate people and leaves them even worse off, ”he added.

“And while the amounts may seem small, a scammer can get a lot out of them over time. If you can rip off 50 people out of $ 1,000, that’s $ 50,000.

“Often these victims are in their 30s, 40s and 50s and can be desperate parents or grandparents trying to raise money for Christmas, and they are spread geographically across the country. “

“Victims will often also have given their bank details to fraudsters, believing it to be a legitimate business, and they could then find their account used to launder money without them knowing it”, a- he explained.

There are a number of legitimate businesses offering loans online, but scammers often imitate their names and websites. Gardaí therefore advises anyone looking for a loan online to independently check the Central Bank’s website to see if it is registered here.

“They could take the name of a registered company and change a word like ‘credit’ to ‘loan’ and you hardly notice it. So you have to be very careful in your research, ”said Superintendent Cryan.

The warning signs of these websites include the lender asking for some sort of payment up front, the website providing a quick and easy way to get a loan online, and then the loan getting approved very quickly.

The loan seeker may also be forced to make the prepayment immediately, often on the grounds that the loan offer will be withdrawn if the fees are not paid.

These entities offering the loan will have a false address, false or otherwise incorrect postcode for the address on the website and the advertised phone number will not work.

No proof is sought of the person’s ability to repay the loan and no guarantor or guarantee will be sought.

Other warning signs include a lack of face-to-face meetings, the lender will not be regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland, and the loan seeker may receive advance payment requests via cryptocurrency.

Gardaí advises members of the public never to pay money up front to the lender before the loan amount is withdrawn; never apply for a loan from an entity that is not regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland; always check the official website of the Central Bank of Ireland to see if the company is regulated to provide financial services in Ireland:

“Always research the entity offering the loan, its address, postal code and telephone number to verify legitimacy, and use legitimate financial service providers and take advantage of the services provided by the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS)” , said the superintendent. Cryane.

“And if you get caught, report it to gardaí and we can shut down the sites or ask the Central Bank to issue warnings about them so that others don’t get ripped off,” he said. added.