Tech-savvy criminals are using a fake banking app to trick consumers into thinking money has been deposited into their accounts.
In a recent case, a software developer was tricked into handing over his high-value laptop after a fake buyer showed him a fake app – complete with bank mark – that incorrectly stated that €3,500 had been paid on its account. A Garda source said scams fitting this description occur so frequently that they are unable to provide exact figures to illustrate the extent of the problem.
Reacting to the rise of increasingly sophisticated scams, the head of the Consumers Association of Ireland (CAI) criticized the
Government policy to move towards a cashless society.
CAI chairman Michael Kilcoyne also said there was not enough protection for consumers, allowing fraudsters to “manipulate the system”.
Mr Kilcoyne said: ‘There is a policy, I don’t know if it’s official or not, of moving away from cash altogether.
“It made these guys easier because they’re able to manipulate the system.”
Mr Kilcoyne also called for greater regulation of tech companies that host apps that can be used for fraudulent purposes.
He added: “They should have some responsibility. I think they just get away with it. There are more and more of these things happening every day of the week. Someone has to take responsibility.
Mina Youssef, 37, from Raheny in Dublin, has been targeted after listing her MacBook Pro Max laptop for a reduced price of €3,500 on website DoneDeal.ie.
He was contacted by a man who said his name was John, who called his home after agreeing to buy him over the phone.
Mr Youssef said he told ‘John’ he would prefer a cash or Revolut payment, but the buyer was adamant about a bank transfer.
He said: “With online banking, especially with a new payee, you have to wait 48 hours for anything over €2,000.
“The man said they weren’t restricted by the bank’s limitations because they had a business account. I checked. I couldn’t see those limitations, but I thought maybe he knew better as a businessman.
“It was a red flag but I didn’t doubt him.”
He said he felt more comfortable when the buyer showed him what appeared to be a real banking app.
‘He opened the app, [which appeared to be] an AIB banking application. I could see his balance. It was around €14,000.
“I gave him my account number, which he put. The transaction has been concluded. He told me to take a photo of the reference just in case. He then dismissed the payment success page and I saw the balance change from €14,000 to €10,500 and my name. »
Mr Youssef has a Bank of Ireland app, and although he wasn’t entirely familiar with the layout of the AIB version, he was convinced it looked correct.
Contacted about the scam involving what appears to be a bank’s official branding, the financial institutions urged consumers to be “extremely vigilant” when buying or selling online.
An AIB spokesperson said: “Customers should be extremely vigilant to determine if the person/company they are dealing with is genuine, as fraudsters can spoof and clone legitimate websites and apps.”
“Where customers have been scammed, we will treat them sympathetically on a case-by-case basis. To date, we have a strong track record of protecting our customers against fraud. However, we must all remain vigilant.
In some cases, it is understood that criminals can download sophisticated software from the dark web that allows them to replicate and incorporate the branding of an individual bank to trick unsuspecting victims.
But in other cases, the scammers simply use images or screenshots of what appear to be images of a real banking app.
A Bank of Ireland spokesperson said: “At times these can give the impression that they are interactive, for example showing a first image with a balance and a follow-up image where the balance appears to have changed. “
“The counterfeits use similar bank logos and colors to make them look authentic, but in reality they’re pretty basic.”