Investment frauds soar in Republic as victims lose life savings

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Gardaí have issued a warning about investment-based scams, with a sharp rise in cases this year and the total amount stolen doubling. In the first nine months of this year, €18.6 million was stolen from people in the Republic in investment frauds, compared to €11 million in all of last year. Many of those being targeted in Ireland are aged 40 or older and a lot of victims lose their life savings, which they have set aside over many years towards their retirement, gardaí have warned. These frauds involve criminals, posing as investment managers, offering what appear to be attractive opportunities to invest in schemes that turn out not to exist. They are often very convincing, run by polished fraudsters using high quality cloned websites that appear to be legitimate, even to those who make background checks. Garda officers are now concerned that, despite publicity campaigns to educate people about the frauds, more and more are falling victim. Sources said the vast majority of the money was quickly moved outside the Republic to the UK. While frauds of all kinds – especially based on scam emails, texts and social media messaging – increased exponentially during the pandemic, investment fraud is growing. Det Supt Michael Cryan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau said about seven in 10 victims are over the age of 40 years, with some 65 per cent of the victims male and 35 per cent female. The average amount stolen from victims this year is €33,431. “People are always going to be attracted to promises of big profits,” Det Supt Cryan said. “That s why these sophisticated, fraudulent investments are on the rise, worldwide, not just in Ireland. The victims in most investment frauds are ordinary people who lose their life savings and retirement nest eggs.” Between 2021 and last year, some €25 million was stolen from people in Ireland to investment fraud, with the figure for 2023 now on course to well exceed €20 million. Det Supt Cryan urged people to “be wary where the return being offered sounds too good to be true or where there is a degree of urgency” to “a once in a lifetime opportunity”. He added people should always seek financial advice when being offered any opportunity, financial product or cryptocurrency-based offer. People should also check the Central Bank’s website to ensure any person or company who approaches them is registered. Many of those engaged in investment fraud operate under an assumed identity, often backed by cloned websites and email addresses.

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