Irish customers targeted by fraudsters claiming to be from Citibank in recent weeks may struggle to get their money back, the head of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) said on Wednesday, as new figures showed that Irish businesses were conned out of €8 million in 2022.
Speaking at a fraud awareness briefing for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) at the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland’s (BPFI’s) Dublin offices, Detective Chief Superintendant Pat Lordan encouraged retail customers who had invested money with Citibank in recent weeks to contact gardaí.
On March 10th, the Central Bank of Ireland has issued a warning about “fraudulent entities” claiming to be Citibank Europe that have reached out to consumers through email attempting to sell fake investments. The entity, which has no connection with Citibank, “cloned a legitimate Central Bank authorised entity in order to deceive consumers” into buying fake products, including a Government treasury bond, “Citi Bond Options and Fixed Rate Bond with a Guaranteed Return”.
Separately, the regulator warned last week that a fraudulent firm calling itself Citigroup Loan Investment, “has been operating as a retail credit firm in the State in the absence of an appropriate authorisation”.
In both cases, the Central Bank warned customers to be extra vigilant if they receive unsolicited phone calls or emails about potential investment opportunities.
Det Chief Supt Lordan told the briefing: “If you’ve invested with Citibank in the last couple of weeks, talk to me afterwards because you probably won’t get your money back. That’s the bad news.” He said that the “guy on the phone is brilliant” and has convinced people to invest in fraudulent products with the promise of low interest rates.
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Overall, he said that scammers were becoming more sophisticated in their attempts and better organised. “They’re so well organised, we would be in the ha’penny place compared to them in law enforcement generally. So they will know exactly what they’re doing, how they’re doing, when they’re doing it.”
The conference, organised as part of the BPFI’s FraudSmart initiative, heard that Irish businesses were conned out of €8 million by fraudsters last year.
“Most businesses would like to think that they are protected against fraud but, unfortunately, SMEs continue to be a key target for scammers,” Niamh Davenport, head of financial crime at the BPFI, said. “Cybercriminals are always looking for new ways to steal information and money and they take advantage of busy work schedules to create an unnecessary sense of urgency in the hope that businesses won’t take the time to do the necessary checks.”