Broadband scammers duping customers into giving access to computers

Callers impersonating companies often sound highly professional, gardaí warn

The scammers aim is to convince the person to hand over their bank account details and passwords Photograph: iStock

The scammers aim is to convince the person to hand over their bank account details and passwords Photograph: iStock


Criminals are impersonating broadband companies on the phone and convincing customers to give them access to their computers and their online banking, gardaí have warned.

The scammers will sound highly professional on the phone and will have an in-depth knowledge of broadband services. If a customer asks to speak to a supervisor, another person will be put on the line.

The aim is to convince the person to hand over their bank account details and passwords. Others will ask the person to download a programme on their computer allowing the scammer full access.

They are then able to access every file on the computer as well as the person’s online banking service. Their bank account is usually immediately emptied into several other accounts controlled by the criminals.

Sometimes the scammers will claim to be from a telephone provider, a software company such as Microsoft or another utility company.

Some will appear to have personal details about the person in an effort to appear genuine but gardaí warn these details could have been gleaned from social media or other public sources.

“This is something that’s been on the increase for the last while” said Det Gda James O’Meara from Garda National Economic Crime Bureau.

He said the caller will often claim they need the user’s online banking passwords to fix a problem with their computer.

‘Money mules’

Others will say they need access to the computer and will have the user download a remote access programme allowing them control of the screen. They will sometimes display a fake screen to the victim on their end, concealing the fact they are accessing their online banking or saved passwords.

They can also leave programmes on the computer allowing them to see everything the user is doing in the future.

Once money is transferred out of the victim’s account it becomes very difficult to trace as it is then transferred through the accounts of so-called “money mules”.

“These would all be mule accounts they have control over. That makes it very difficult to get it back as these scams generally have an international dimension to them,” Det Gda O’Meara said.

The scammers are often based outside the country but will appear to call from an Irish number through the use of a “number-spoofer” or “number-masker”.

“We would advise people not to trust the number displayed on the caller ID,” Det Gda O’Meara said.

Customers with suspicions about a caller should hang up and phone the company the caller is claiming to represent.

“Do not use a number given to you by the caller and make sure you hear a dial tone before making the call. If you are concerned that you may have fallen victim to a scam contact your local Garda Station and also your bank,” Det Supt Gerard Walsh said.

In particular, gardaí advise people not to give personal or financial details to callers promising to release or refund money.

“The caller will try to rush you or make you feel foolish and negligent if you don’t follow their instructions, but this is all designed to panic you into doing something you wouldn’t otherwise do,” Niamh Davenport of Banking and Payments Federation Ireland said.