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Fraud squad seize devices and files from suspect in €1m invoice scam

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The invoice scam involves tricking companies to change the bank details they use to pay a supplier. Photo posed

The invoice scam involves tricking companies to change the bank details they use to pay a supplier. Photo posed

The invoice scam involves tricking companies to change the bank details they use to pay a supplier. Photo posed

Fraud squad detectives have seized a number of electronic devices and documentation as part of a massive international probe into a €1m invoice redirect fraud.

Officers from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) raided a property in the Finglas area where the target was a Nigerian national who is the subject of a major Europol alert.

The suspect, who is aged in his mid-20s, was not arrested in the raid but multiple devices were seized which will now be forensically examined by specialist officers.

Gardai have been assisting Dutch police in an investigation by an organised crime gang in relation to the theft of €1m from a company in Holland last month.

Invoice redirection fraud happens when a business falls prey to requests, purporting to come from trusted suppliers or service providers, to update the details of the bank account into which their invoices are paid.

As a result, funds that are due to be paid out are transferred to a fraudulent account.

Gardai have made a number of arrests in the past year of organised criminals who are suspected of being directly involved in invoice redirection frauds - a crime that has cost Irish companies millions of euro in recent years.

Freeze

It has been an extremely busy week for the GNECB who yesterday obtained court permission to freeze €40,000 in a bank account controlled by a 37-year-old Romanian national who was has been charged with possession of false passports in a completely separate international investigation.

Last month Irish firms were warned to watch out for supplier and invoice scams during the global Coronavirus pandemic.

It followed a Europol warning about fraudulent new supplier websites and domain names coming online.

FraudSMART, the anti-fraud initiative from the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), said the risk to businesses has increased as more of them have moved their activities online and staff are working remotely due to the Covid-19 emergency.

Last November gardai warned business owners here about the internet email scam with which fraudsters stole €650,000 from two firms just weeks earlier.

The companies lost the money after responding to what looked like legitimate invoices from suppliers.

One company lost €200,000 and the other €453,000.

In many instances the business does not know it is a victim of this scam until the legitimate supplier sends a reminder invoice seeking payment, gardaí said.

In a statement, Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan had the following advice for business: "Victims of Invoice Redirect Fraud range from very small businesses to large companies and the consequences of falling for a scam of this nature can be catastrophic and result in the closure of businesses and redundancies.

"If you are not sure, pick up the phone and speak to someone in the invoicing company."