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Beware scam calls, texts and emails – Garda warning

News

Fake messages catching out Mayo people daily, while money mules are on the rise

Edwin McGreal

Garda chiefs all across Mayo are warning people to be extremely wary of any texts, emails or phone calls purporting to be from banks.
An Garda Síochana has revealed that Mayo people are falling victim to such fraud daily, and gardaí are stressing the need to remain vigilant.
Last Friday’s meeting of the Mayo Joint Policing Committee (JPC) heard four Garda chiefs issue stark warnings about the situation they are seeing on the ground in the county.
“They are coming to our attention on a daily basis, we are seeing people getting caught, and losing money, all the time with fraud by three ways: email, text or cold calling,” explained Detective Superintendent Joe McKenna.
“Despite our advice and appeals in the local media, people are handing over their bank details. I would urge people to be very cautious when receiving calls or texts purporting to be from official businesses,” he said, adding that no one should click on links sent this way.
“If you get a message purporting to be from your bank, contact the bank by ringing them or calling into them. The banks tell us and they say in their own advertising campaigns that they do not contact people in this way.”

Pandemic crime
Chief Superintendent Ray McMahon, in charge of the Mayo and Roscommon/Longford Garda Divisions, said that while the occurrence of some types of crime had reduced during the pandemic, criminals have been very able to diversify.
“The criminals haven’t stopped operating. Some of them have changed what they’re doing. We need the public to be very aware of fraud,” he said.
Castlebar/Westport Community Engagement Superintendent Paudie O’Shea also warned people, saying: “If you’re in any doubt after receiving a link, don’t go near it.”
“It is an area that has gained a lot of media attention this last while, but unfortunately people are falling into the same traps,” he continued.
“It is so important to stay alert. Every morning I go into the station, I see a new report of fraud.”

Student ‘Money mules’
DS McKenna said that linked to these scams was a growth in what he referred to as ‘money mules’, people whose bank accounts are used to store and transfer money fraudulently obtained, often for a commission.
He said second- and third-level students, in particular, are being contacted, often via social media, and asked to supply their bank details.
“Their account details are being used by people who are taking money from other people. Unfortunately, these people allowing their bank accounts to be used in this way will find themselves subject to a criminal investigation,” said DS McKenna.
Claremorris/Swinford Community Engagement Superintendent Gabriel Moran said he was seeing fraud ‘day in, day out’, adding that his division had seen a ‘series of incidents’ where people were being used as money mules.
“Their accounts were frozen by the bank … money was going through the account which was clearly money being taken from someone else’s account.
“If you get involved in allowing your bank account to be used like this, there can be serious consequences. A conviction for money laundering can have significant implications for your career, and also if banks know you allowed your account to be used for money laundering, you will have a lot of difficulty in accessing bank services,” he said.
Ballinrobe-based Cllr Michael Burke said he had received numerous complaints of such scams.
“Bank fraud is a huge issue. People are getting what looks like a very honest text or maybe a follow up call,” he said, urging people not to respond to any texts purporting to be from a bank.
Westport-based JPC member Keelan Moran asked the Gardaí if awareness campaigns are being conducted in schools in relation to the issue of money mules.
Chief Supt McMahon said this was being done but would be increased.