Our website uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience and to collect information about how you use this site to improve our service to you. By not accepting cookies some elements of the site, such as video, will not work. Please visit our Cookie Policy page for more information on how we use cookies.

An Garda Síochána Operation Targeting National and International Money Laundering and Smishing - 21st November 2023

Issue Date: 21st November 2023

Gardaí in Waterford have arrested 9 men as part an investigation involving Money Laundering and Smishing (Fraudulent SMS/WhatsApp Messages) nationally and internationally.

• 9 men arrested of which 2 are currently charged before the courts
• €1.12 million cryptocurrency seized
• €30,000 other monies frozen
• 2 vehicles seized VW Golf and Mercedes
• 1 property identified in Dubai
• Investigation has identified organised criminal connections across Europe, the UK, Dubai and South Africa.

Gardaí attached to the Waterford Division Crime Hub have been conducting a complex criminal investigation focusing on organised transnational criminal activity involving the bulk transmission of smishing texts (Fraudulent SMS/WhatsApp Messages), theft, deception and Money Laundering both nationally and internationally.

2 males are currently before the courts charged with various alleged offences contrary:

• Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010
• Part 7 of Criminal Justice Act 2006
• Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001

Investigating Gardaí have currently seized currency, vehicles and property believed to be the proceeds of the organised criminality:

• €1.12 million cryptocurrency
• €30,000 other monies frozen
• 2 vehicles seized VW Golf and Mercedes
• 1 property identified in Dubai

The seizure of cryptocurrency, in October and November 2023 as part of the investigation, is the first major seizure of cryptocurrency (now in excess of €1.12 million) in the area of Organised Cyber Enabled frauds by An Garda Síochána.

The criminal activity focuses on the criminal offence of Smishing involving fraudulent SMS and WhatsApp messages claiming to be from National Postal Offices, Delivery Companies, Financial Institutions, etc.

The investigation is being coordinated by the Waterford Crime Office with the assistance of GNECB (Virtual Assets Investigation Unit and FIU Ireland), GNCCB, Europol, Garda Passenger Information Unit (GPIU) and other Garda Divisions.
Europol and Garda Liaisons in Irish Embassies are facilitating the investigation team in liaison with other Police Forces to progress this investigation internationally.

The investigation to date has established that the criminal activity is operating in a number of countries in Europe, the UK, Dubai and South Africa. The investigation is also conducting enquires into persons of varying nationalities, multi-linguistic, fluent in a number of languages to deceive their victims both nationally and internationally.

Investigations are ongoing

As highlighted by An Garda Síochána during fraud briefing on Account Take Over last week:

An Garda Síochána is asking members of the public to always be suspicious of texts and calls asking for any personal data or money.

Sophisticated fraudsters use texts, calls and emails to trick members of the public into giving away their personal data, enabling the fraudsters to take over their bank account/devices or debit/credit card details.

What is account takeover fraud?

This is where an individual receives a text (smishing), call (vishing) or email (phishing) from a fraudster that appears to be from a bank, service provider, delivery company or government agency and aims to take over their bank account, devices or debit/credit card details.

If it’s a text (smishing), usually the fraudsters get the individual to click on a link and insert their PIN. This could be followed up with a call from the fraudster pretending to be from their bank. The result is the fraudster takes over their account or adds beneficiaries (i.e., money mules) and makes online transfers. Or, they may get the person to pay a small amount (e.g., customs charge) with their card details and use these to make other purchases online.

If it’s a call (vishing), the fraudster may phone the person to tell them that they are ‘under investigation’ for tax fraud and that they can resolve the matter by paying their bill immediately. They may ask for their bank account details, credit card details, PPS number, etc. Or, they may encourage them to download software (e.g., AnyDesk) so they can take over their computer.

Common types of smishing/vishing:

• Banks
• Delivery service
• Service Provider
• Child in trouble
• Government Departments including Gardaí

How to avoid account takeover fraud?

• Be wary of texts (even those in the thread of previous genuine texts from banks), especially if you are expecting a delivery
• Be wary of cold calls – always ask the caller their name and for their phone number. If you have any concerns just hang up and ring your bank/service provider using the number on your bill/statement – just because it looks like an Irish number doesn’t mean it is
• Don’t download any Apps that give fraudsters control of your device
• Never ever click on links
• Never ever give away your personal data (e.g., bank details, PIN numbers, passwords, one time codes, PPS number, Eircode, etc)
• Do not transfer any money
• Get advice from a trusted person before taking any action
• If you have been a victim, change your passwords/pin codes, report it to your bank ASAP and ask them to do a recall, then report it to Gardaí.

An Garda Síochána advises members of the public who believe they are a victim of fraud or think their account has been compromised, to contact any Garda Station and their Bank/ Financial Institution.