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Warning issued over contact tracing scam

Members of the public are being asked to remain vigilant in light of reports of a telephone/text scam from criminals claiming to be HSE contact tracing and testing staff.

The fraudulent calls and text messages claim that the person has been identified as a close contact of someone who has Covid-19 and ask for money for a testing kit to be sent to them and for bank details.

The HSE does not charge the public for Covid-19 related services, including testing, and such texts and calls should be ignored.

Any close contacts of a confirmed positive case of Covid-19 will be contacted by phone call by the Contact Tracing Team or Public Health Staff in the HSE and referred for a test. The HSE does not charge or ask for payment for testing.

If the Covid-19 Tracker App has identified you as a close contact you will see a red box with the advice on what you should do next on all pages of the app.

You will NEVER be asked for your bank details or to pay for testing by a member of HSE contact tracing staff.

If you are concerned or suspicious about any contact you have received regarding Covid-19 testing, please ring HSELive on 1850 24 1850 and contact your local Gardaí.

Meanwhile, Gardaí are appealing to the public, particularly younger people, not to let anyone else use their bank account.

The warning follows an arrest made in West Cork last week in relation to suspected money laundering. The man, aged in early 20s, is believed to have allowed a large quantity of cash be lodged and transferred using his account. He was detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act and later released. A file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Situations like this normally involve a person known as a “Money Mule”.  The practice usually involves criminals recruiting young people to help launder stolen or illegal money using their bank account – often unwittingly.

The chance to earn a “quick buck” is a tactic used by fraudsters to recruit money mules, who are promised a share of the proceeds in exchange for their bank account details.

A Money Mule is a person who transfers money illegally on behalf of other people. They allow their account to be used for the transfer of ill-gotten gains. They may or may not be aware of the crime. However, they are complicit if they recklessly allow their account to be used to launder the proceeds of these crimes. Young people are often targeted by organised crime gangs to act as money mules, laundering thousands of euro through their accounts in exchange for a few hundred euro.”

Anti-money laundering legislation is designed to prevent organised crime gang members from opening up accounts so they need money mules to launder their money. Students are an easy target for these “money herders”. They are often approached online, on campus, or while out socialising.

Crime Prevention Advice

  1. Do not allow anyone to use your bank account.
    2. Do not share personal bank account data.
    3. Do not send or receive money.
    4. Trust your instincts. If it sounds too good to be true it most likely is.If you are approached to facilitate this crime. Say no and report the matter to Gardaí.
    If you agree to allow your account be used in this way you are committing the offence of money laundering. Money laundering is a serious offence which on convictions carries a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment. This will have a serious impact on your future travel plans, career opportunities, vetting and credit ratings.

 

For more crime prevention details on this, and other topics, please see www.garda.ie

(Main image shows the actual Covid Tracker)

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