“Be Very Cautious” – Garda Warns Fraudsters Target Desperate People For Short-Term Loans With “Upfront Fee” Scam

People looking for loans online are being urged by gardaí to be extremely careful with who they deal with after a recent increase in the number of people falling victim to so-called “upfront fee” scams.

The scam is particularly ruthless in that it targets people who are desperate for money and cannot get credit from traditional financial institutions.

While other phone and text scams, such as fake messages from government agencies such as Revenue, persist, the ‘upfront fee’ scam is different in that scammers wait for someone to desperate do an online credit search and then they take advantage. of that person.

“How it works is that a person goes online and searches for ‘quick credits’ or ‘quick loans’ in a search engine, and they will find a number of different companies offering their services,” he said. said Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB).

“Some of these sites may be legitimate, but a number of them will be crooks who have cloned or imitated a legitimate site, and even make it look Irish, although it is likely to be controlled by the foreigner.

“A desperate person fills out their contact details, then within minutes they get a phone call discussing the ‘loan’ and are told that to be eligible they will have to pay the first installment as insurance or prove they are. legitimate.

“So if you are looking for a $ 2,000 loan from them in the short term, you will have to pay five or 10% up front. You pay the money and you never hear from them again.

“While the amount stolen may seem small on an individual basis, it is often stolen from people who are already on edge financially, and it all adds up for the scammer.

“If you can take $ 50 out of 1,000 people, that’s $ 50,000,” said Superintendent Cryan.

He advised anyone doing business with a financial institution to check with the Central Bank’s website to make sure it is regulated by them.

“Be very careful to check the exact wording of the company name, as many scammers make their sites look almost identical to a legitimate business, but perhaps by changing words like ‘credit’ in the title in “loans”, “he said. .

He also warned that at this time of year, many students or their parents fall victim to housing scams for apartments or apartments near colleges or universities.

He advised people to only use reputable rental companies or deal with people of good faith and trust.

“Websites can be cloned. Check the URL to make sure it is a real website and take note of the privacy and refund policy sections.

“Beware of ads on social media or when someone leaving the location will only communicate through Messenger or WhatsApp.

“You have to insist on straightforward answers and if the answers are vague, disengage immediately.

“Be careful of unsolicited contact or when the contact appears to be based in other jurisdictions, and especially if there is a sense of urgency like a ‘one-time offer’.

“If you’ve decided to take the offer, only use trusted money transfer systems. Never transfer money directly, pay in cash or in cryptocurrency wallets.

“Beware if a website asks you to send money to a random PayPal address, or asks you to wire it via Western Union, pay in iTunes gift cards, or only cryptocurrency transactions.

“Most of the time, these methods are used to avoid scrutiny and to ensure that a transaction cannot be reversed.”

Cryptocurrency itself as a source of investment fraud has also been highlighted by the GNECB.

With the news this week that around half a million people now own cryptocurrencies in this country, gardaí fears that the attraction of this invisible currency is strong and that the risk of being caught by crooks is therefore high. .

Earlier this year, the GNECB said there had been a 120% increase in investment fraud during the Covid pandemic.

People who search online for a place to invest their savings or retirement lump sums are drawn to the promise of big returns, but are often scammed by scammers posing as legitimate financial companies.

Most investment fraud cases involve amounts in excess of € 40,000, and gardaí’s advice is to always check that the company you are dealing with is regulated by the Central Bank here in Ireland.

“If a deal or return on investment sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Superintendent Cryan said.

“If you are looking for a loan or want to invest money, talk to someone you trust and get advice before trusting a website. ”

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