Victims conned out of €15.6m in scams in 2020 - FraudSmart

Two-thirds of consumers report being targeted by impersonation scams during Covid pandemic

BPFI chief executive Brian Hayes: ‘Fraudsters continuously update and adapt their tactics and tools.’ Photograph: Alan Betson

BPFI chief executive Brian Hayes: ‘Fraudsters continuously update and adapt their tactics and tools.’ Photograph: Alan Betson


The number of scams targeting consumers jumped almost 80 per cent in 2020, as fraudsters took advantage of uncertainties and unfamiliar situations prompted by the Covid-19 crisis, new figures from the banking industry show.

Victims were conned out of €15.6 million, a 51 per cent higher sum than the year before, according to FraudSmart, a fraud awareness initiative led by Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI).

It said victims of frauds such as impersonation scams, romance scams and investment scams were tricked out of an average of €5,300.

Its report highlighted a sharp rise in impersonation scams as fraudsters have sought to exploit the upheaval caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. These scams occur when the fraudster pretends to be from a legitimate organisation or business to get sensitive information or money from the victim.

More than two-thirds of consumers reported being targeted by some form of impersonation scam in the twelve months to July 2021, with the figures rising to 83 per cent among 18-24 year olds, according to a survey by FraudSmart.

Impersonating State agencies

When asked who the fraudster was pretending to be, more than half (56 per cent) said a government department or agency including the Revenue Commissioners or Garda, while 36 per cent said the fraudster was pretending to be from a bank.

Almost one in five said the fraudster pretended to be from a delivery company.

Some 72 per cent of respondents contacted by fraudsters saying they were contacted by phone, almost twice as many as reported being contacted by email (37 per cent), while 32 per cent reported being contacted via text message.

However, the majority of those surveyed – 70 per cent – said they did nothing when contacted and did not fall for the scam. Only 6 per cent clicked on a link in an email, while 3 per cent provided personal or account information and 2 per cent provided bank or credit card details.

“Fraudsters continuously update and adapt their tactics and tools. They can quickly identify and exploit scam opportunities presented by evolving consumer and business behaviour as well as the ever-changing economic and social environment,” said BPFI chief executive Brian Hayes.

“We all face the threat of fraud, but together we can stand up to the scammers and stop fraud.”