Calls and emails: 10 things to know to avoid scam artists

Gardaí warn ‘vishing’ scams are on the rise with reports of victims losing thousands

Gardaí are warning people about the rise of telephone and email scams where criminals attempt to deceive people into providing personal financial information.

They said they have received a significant increase in reports of “vishing” from all over the country since the activity was highlighted in July.

The force has received reports of vishing where the targets have lost more than €38,000. In a case reported in the last two weeks an injured party transferred more than €22,000 on the instructions of a person purporting to be a named Garda superintendent.

Here are 10 way to avoid “vishing” scams:


1. If something seems too good to be true, then it is too good to be true. Unless you know and trust any person who is dangling any class of financial reward or once in a life time deal or threat in front of your eyes, your starting position should always be “This is a scam”.

2. Never allow yourself to be hurried into making a decision. One of the most important tools in the scam artists’ armoury is panic and fear. Many of the deals and threats that are out there come with a warning that unless you act immediately you will lose out. So never act immediately and always consult with someone else before making any kind of financial commitment. Sometimes giving voice to an offer that has been made, makes it easier to see how ridiculous it is.

3. Remember that your bank will never, ever contact you by email looking for any financial details. They will never email you an alert warning you to update the financial details on their website. If you ever get an email from your bank - no matter how legit it looks - treat it with the gravest suspicion.

4. Change your passwords often. It is a pain but it keeps you focussed and keeps you one step ahead of the scammers. And do not put the answers to security questions on Facebook. That means leaving out details of where you went to school, your mother's maiden name, your first pet's name and all the other questions that may you may uses as answers when getting access to your key accounts.

5. Unsolicited calls offering you any class of unexpected financial reward are almost certainly bogus. Remember what we said about things being too good to be true? Never forget that fact.

6. If you get a call from Microsoft offering to fix a deadly virus they have found on your computer for what seems like a small sum of money just hang up. Can you think of any circumstance in which a company will call you up unsolicited and offer to help you out?

7. The tax man is never going to send you a mail or a text telling you that an unexpected tax rebate is coming your way. That is as likely to happen as you winning the Spanish lottery or inheriting a suitcase full of blood diamonds from Sierra Leone.

8. Scam artists target vulnerable people. Frequently these people are elderly or live alone. They can be unfamiliar with the workings of the internet. Do what you can to spread the word about scams and alert vulnerable people close to you of the dangers. This can be done in a casual way - there’s no point in scaring everyone witless.

9. Pay attention to what his happening around you. Scam artists are constantly working out new ways to part people from their cash. The nastiest - and most believable one doing the rounds right now sees the criminal phone a member of the public - on their land line - claiming to be a “security manager” from a well known store. They tell the target there’s been a security breach and credit or debit card details have been compromised. They ask for bank details and if the request is refused, the target is advised to call their bank immediately. The target hands up but the fraudster stays on the line which remains active. The target picks up the phone and calls their bank - without waiting for a dial tone. A voice comes on the other end saying that that to protect the account the funds must be transferred to another account. Once a person “voluntarily” transfer funds or information to a third party, there is no comeback. So pay attention to the news and when you hear of a new scam spread the word.

10. Listen to the words of the gardaí. "These criminals are targeting vulnerable, usually elderly people and I want to warn people to never give anyone details of their bank accounts or credit card numbers. Please remember that no genuine person or organisation will call and ask for your details. Gardaí are asking community organisations, relatives or neighbours of elderly people to help us to get this message across," said Detective superintendent Gerard Walsh from the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation alerting people to the scam highlighted in number 9. If you think you have been targeted by scam artists call the guards. And remember what we said about something being too good to be true.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast