Professional criminal gangs targeting victims via dating sites in Ireland with € 7.8million stolen in 2021

PROFESSIONAL criminal gangs are targeting people using Irish dating sites for investment fraud, the Irish Sun can reveal.

And a special investigation we’re conducting today into online scams describes how a staggering € 7.8 million was stolen in the first seven months of 2021.

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Giuseppe Diviccaro, 45, was jailed for five years, with 18 months suspended after opening seven bank accounts here and laundering € 200,019
Dragos Cirstea, 35

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Dragos Cirstea, 35

This compares to 4.2 million euros stolen in 2020 and 2.2 million euros in 2019.

The scam works by schemers engaging with people on dating sites, building relationships and encouraging them to invest in cryptocurrency projects.

Many victims are also targeted by responding to “pop-up ads” on social media platforms created by criminals.

Dating sites are just one of the many ways scammers target innocent people, the primary method being cloning investment sites.

And we can also reveal how in the first ten months of 2021, the total sum stolen in all frauds stands at 55 million euros, compared to 45 million euros for the same period in 2021.

And they also used fake quotes from celebrities and businessmen claiming to endorse the investment.

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The average age of those targeted is 52, with 40 percent female and 60 percent male.

Those behind the investment scams – which have risen 55% this year – are major targets for the Keep National Bureau of Economic Crime.

In an interview with the Irish Sun, Superintendent Michael Cryan recounted how “ordinary people” across Ireland had been targeted by the crooks.

The senior officer said: “Investment fraud is where criminals pose as investment managers, promise quick and high rates of return, and simply steal your money.

“Some victims are persuaded to download links which allow the fraudster to take control of their computer and to empty their account in bulk.

‘DEVASTATING EFFECT’

“These are ordinary people all across the country who have lost their pensions, tips and pips etc. and it has had a devastating effect on them.

“The bait of investing in cryptocurrencies and the bait of a quick return are used to lure and trap the victim. Victims come into contact with people through dating sites and this is where they are advised to invest.

“The Central Bank of Ireland says investing in cryptocurrency is not suitable for most consumers, especially those pursuing long-term goals like saving for retirement. too good to be true, then it probably is. “

Superintendent Cryan added, “Virtual currencies are not regulated, so if something goes wrong you will not be able to claim compensation.

IMPORTANCE OF RESEARCH

“It’s important not to take investment advice from someone you’ve been put in contact with through a dating site, app, or social media.

“It’s also important to remember that cryptocurrency is high risk and most will fail.

“We are just encouraging people to do their research before committing to any investment and to be aware that this type of crime takes place in Ireland.”

Although both men and women are targeted on dating sites, scammers also prey on people by engaging in “dating frauds”.

It also works when the con artist declares love to his victim before asking him to send money for a sick relative or a college class.

VICTIMS OF SCAMS

In recent times, there have been almost 100 victims of the scam in Ireland.

Other frauds investigated include “account takeover”, which involves criminals taking over someone’s bank account with 4,000 accounts targeted here.

And in addition to investment fraud, another major crime that took place in Ireland during the Covid 19 pandemic was ‘Smishing’.

A bank here lost € 8million due to the crime – GNECB investigators managed to recover € 4million.

Smishing works through text messages or emails pretending to be from banks, delivery companies, or the service industry.

They claim that there is unusual activity on their victim’s account and click on a link that was sent.

SILVER MULES

But once someone clicks on the account and enters their PIN, criminals have full access to it.

The thieves then transfer the money to accounts used by their “money dumb”.

At present, it is estimated that around 4,000 silver mules work for gangs in Ireland.

But the GNECB has had major successes against fraudsters in Operation Skein and Operation Omena.

Last year, con artist Giuseppe Diviccaro, 45, was jailed for five years, with an 18-month suspension after opening seven bank accounts here and laundering € 200,019 between June 21, 2018 and July 17, 2020.

MOVING OPERATIONS

Since the crackdown began, Gardai has established how € 20million had been laundered through accounts in Ireland, with detectives working closely with Interpol and US authorities.

Gardai also identified 400 suspects, made more than 100 arrests and sent files to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Those arrested included money mules and members of the “upper level” gangs.

And the successes of Operation Omena have led fraudsters to move their operations from Ireland to the Netherlands.

These caged crooks here included Dragos Cirstea, 35, and her lover Maria Gabriela, 23.

One of Europe’s most prolific thieves – Ionut Grigorescu – was also captured by the Gardai as part of Operation Omena.

For more information on a wide range of online frauds, visit the website www.fraudSMART.fr

Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan explained how "ordinary people" all of Ireland had been the target of crooks

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Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan recounts how ‘ordinary people’ across Ireland were targeted by crooksCredit: Garda Info


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