Gardai advise the public to be aware of investment fraud

An Garda Síochána is advising the public to pay particular close attention when considering any potential investments given the significant rise in investment fraud.

By the end of Q4, 2023 over €25 million had been stolen from victims of investment fraud in Ireland. This is almost equal to the combined amount stolen from victims in 2021 and 2022, €14m and €11.5m respectively.

Investment fraud is where criminals pose as investment managers to fool someone into investing money in schemes and projects that do not exist. During a period of high cost of living, these sophisticated criminals are taking advantage by cloning webpages and targeting victims through online and social media adverts by promising ‘once in a lifetime opportunities’ to instantly invest with fast and large financial returns.

Between January 2020 and January this year, over 965 people have reported incidents of investment fraud to A Garda Síochána.

Over double the number of victims have reported the crime to An Garda Síochána in the first two months of this year (2024) in comparison to January and February, 2023.

Men are increasingly becoming the victim of the type of fraud.

The majority of victims last year are male (69%) – this has steadily increased since 2020 when men made up just over half. The vast majority of those affected are aged over 40.

Reported incidents in the past twelve months included:

1. In January 2024, a man in his 70’s based in the east of Ireland reported that he had over €190,000 stolen after he had invested the money in what he thought was a legitimate British company.

2. In May 2023, a man in his 40’s clicked on a social media link advertising investment opportunities and entered contact details. He was later contacted by phone from a person purporting to be from a reputable financial institution about purchasing bank bonds. The victim was defrauded €100,000.

3. During 2023, a victim in his 60’s reported that he had been contacted online about investing with a British financial instiution. After being convinced by the person he was communicating with, he transferred funds and had €300,000 stolen.

4. Earlier this year, a man in his 50’s had €121,000 stolen through investment fraud. The victim understood that he was legitimately engaged in online trading and was communicating with someone online who had encouraged him into it. This was a particularly sophisticated crime as the victim had access to an online trading app and believed that he could see his funds being traded, however, the app itself was fake.

5. A woman in her 60’s saw an advert on social media about an investment opportunity in cryptocurrency. She reported the theft of €50,000 through investment fraud.

How to avoid investment fraud?

• Do not invest until you get reliable financial and legal advice
• Check the regulatory status of the company via the Central Bank of Ireland webpage
• Do not respond to pop-up/social media ads or messages with claims about investment returns
• Ignore unsolicited approaches or cold calls about investments
• Beware of celebrity-endorsed investments – they may not even know that their name is being used
• Be careful of cryptocurrency, bank bonds and hedge fund investment opportunities that present unusually high % returns
• Be wary of fake wallets for storing your cryptocurrency – these can be scams for malware to infect or control your computer
• Do not click on links for webpages that you don’t know and always check that the site is HTTPS secured
• Never allow anyone remote access to your computer or download Apps that can give others control of your computer – ‘AnyDesk’ is one example
• Take your time to consider before sending or transferring any money – get a second opinion from a friend, family member, colleague if not a financial advisor
• Never disclose personal data or bank account passwords or codes.

Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau said, “People are always going to be attracted to the promise of big profits. That is why these sophisticated, fraudulent investments are on the rise. Those affected by this type of crime are ordinary people who really unfortunately can lose their life savings, nest eggs or a retirement lump sum.

“Investment fraud can quite easily happen – the fraudster will sound convincing and claim to have insider knowledge but they are following a well-rehearsed script, they’re prepared for potential questions and they tend to be excellent actors.
They may purport to be working with a reputable firm and may even quote authorisation numbers or give the real address of a legitimate firm but this is all a coy.

“I strongly encourage anyone who has been a victim in the past or who has more recently become a victim of investment fraud to please come forward and speak with us in any Garda Station.”

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