Organized crime gang ‘Hackerville’ involved in rental scams, Gardai says

SENIOR gardaí claims that organized crime gangs are involved in rental scams that have resulted in the theft of nearly a million euros from unsuspecting victims since February 2019.

Superintendent General Michael Cryan, who set up Operation Omena to tackle the crowds, told that “there is a significant element of organized crime in what happened with these fraud in location “.

Agents from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) have identified a gang in the Romanian town of Ramnicu Valcea, nicknamed “Hackerville”.

The city in central Romania has earned its dubious title because more than 80 of its residents have been arrested as part of a major EU crackdown on the mob of fraudsters.

The gang at the center of the lengthy investigation is suspected of carrying out thousands of organized frauds in other EU countries and then using Irish financial institutions to launder the money.

Gardaí believes that members of this criminal organization were involved in some of the rental scams here.

“Primarily, this gang has been involved in two different types of organized fraud in Europe,” a senior source said.

“One of the scams targeted customers of Airbnb and many other hosting providers across Europe.

“Customers have been tricked into paying money for bogus housing. They think they are renting real housing, but in fact the money is diverted to the organized criminal gang who have created fake websites.

“In other cases, people have been tricked into paying huge amounts of money for everything from watches to cars to tractors in this very elaborate Internet fraud.

“As soon as the money goes into the gang’s bank account, it is taken out by the criminals.”

As students prepare to return to college, Gardaí pointed out that a huge percentage of those who have fallen for rental scams in previous years are under 25.

Gardaí said although incidents have declined over the past 18 months with the Covid-19 restrictions, there were still reasons to be cautious.

Detective Superintendent Cryan said only recognized rental companies or people “of good faith” should be trusted.

“Websites can be cloned. Check the URL to make sure it’s a real website and take note of the privacy and refund policy sections, ”he advised.

“Beware of ads on social media or when someone leaving the location will only communicate through Messenger or WhatsApp. You must insist on straightforward answers and if the answers are vague, disengage immediately.

“Be careful of unsolicited contact or when the contact appears to be based in other jurisdictions, and especially if there is a sense of urgency as a one-time offer.”

Superintendent Cryan added, “If you have decided to accept the offer, only use reliable money transfer systems. I would recommend using a credit card. Never transfer money directly, pay in cash, [and never] pay in cryptocurrency wallets.

“Beware if a website asks you to send money to a random PayPal address, or wire it via Western Union, or pay with iTunes gift cards, or if it only processes cryptocurrency. Most of the time, these methods are used to avoid scrutiny and ensure that a transaction cannot be reversed.

A total of 503 cases of rental scams were reported between February 1, 2019 and May 31, 2021.

Almost half of these incidents occurred in the Dublin area with just over € 900,000 stolen from rental scams during this period.

About 42% of all injured parties were under 25, while 72% were under 35.

In addition, specialist detectives from the GNECB were involved in a search this morning in the northern city center of the capital as part of a major Europol investigation which has led to a number of coordinated arrests across the city. ‘Europe today.

Gardaí worked closely with Dutch and Romanian police to target mobs suspected of making millions of euros through all types of fraud, including “creating fake and cloned websites, bill forwarding frauds and identity theft of legitimate businesses ”.

The target of this morning’s raid was a Romanian woman who was not arrested, but officers seized € 9,000 in cash as well as cell phones and other devices and documents.

“The information is that she is close to one of the main players in this gang,” said a senior source.

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