‘Smishing’ scammers trick bank customers out of €1,700 on average

Private and business account holders must stay on high alert as criminals seek to take advantage of sector upheaval, banking industry group says

Personal and business banking customers should be on high alert over the coming months with incidents of impersonation scams set to rise as fraudsters seek to capitalise on upheaval in the Irish retail banking market.

With hundreds of thousands of consumers and businesses currently in the process of moving their accounts from Ulster Bank and KBC Bank to new service providers, customers should remain wary, the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland (BPFI) said on Wednesday.

It comes as new data from the lobby group for the Irish banking sector reveals that victims of text message scams were conned out of an average of €1,700 in the first half of the year while businesses lost an average of €14,000 to invoice fraud over the same period.

Account details

Banks have warned in recent months that the incidence of so-called “smishing” scams – where fraudsters attempt to trick customers into supplying their bank details by sending texts that seem to come from their bank – have risen sharply in recent months.


Based on a survey of its members, figures from the BPFI on Wednesday showed that the number of scam text messages almost doubled between January and June from the same period last year.

Meanwhile, businesses that fell victim to invoice fraud – where scammers impersonate a supplier and notify a company that payment details have been changed in a bid to siphon off funds to a fraudulent account – in the first half of the year were conned out of an average of €14,000, and up to €50,000 in some cases, the BPFI said.

Invoice fraud

More than 100 cases of invoice fraud were reported to BPFI members between January and June. A spokeswoman for the BPFI said when cases of invoice fraud are notified, banks will work with their business customers on a case-by-case basis to attempt to retrieve the stolen money.

“However, in some instances, funds have often already been moved on from the account into which they were transferred,” she said. “Fraudsters use money mule accounts to get the money from the businesses and then transfer it to other accounts as soon as it lands. The quicker a business reports the potential fraud, the more success there is in retrieving the funds.”

“Fraudsters are experts at taking advantage of changing situations to commit fraud,” said Niamh Davenport, FraudSmart lead at the BPFI, in a statement. “For personal customers, we expect fraudsters will use this account transition period to obtain personal information through the guise of a problem with a customer’s new account set-up or switch.

“We are warning consumers to be on the lookout for text messages that flag fraud on your bank account or impending cancellation of your salary, standing orders or direct debits to utilities and which then go on to ask for personal information or account details.”

Ms Davenport said the BPFI was also issuing a “serious warning” to business banking customers, who were “particularly vulnerable in the current environment”.

Ian Curran

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times