Fraudsters use Social Protection hotline number in Covid-19 scam

Bogus offers of €350 payment from Government used to steal banking details

The Department has  warned people to be wary of the “latest sophisticated phone and text scams”. Photograph: iStock

The Department has warned people to be wary of the “latest sophisticated phone and text scams”. Photograph: iStock

 

Fraudsters are using the pandemic to secure people’s bank details by making fake offers of a €350 Covid19-related payment. They are also calling victims by phone using a cloned version of the Department of Social Protection’s helpline.

When people receive the calls, the number visible on their phone is that of the legitimate and active department hotline. That number is being used by the fraudsters as a ploy to convince people the calls they are answering are genuine.

The Department has now warned people to be wary of the “latest sophisticated phone and text scams”.

“The latest scam text messages contain a link for the recipient to claim a payment of €350,” the Department said in its warning. “The fraudsters rely on the fact that some people may click on the link and then provide their confidential social welfare information.”

A sample text being received by people that purports to come from the Department reads: “Urgent: Ireland Gov has issued a payment of 350 € to all residents as part of its promise to battle Covid-19.”

The text message contains a link that people are asked to click on and when they are taken to an online form they must input certain information, including their banking and social welfare details.

The telephone calls being made by fraudsters, which purport to come from the Department’s own hotline number, are also aimed at extract banking and social welfare details.

Those details are being gathered by fraudsters for the purposes or carrying out a fraud at a later date, usually on a victim’s bank account, or to claim social welfare payments using victims’ personal details.

“Please do not engage with these calls or share any personal information with the callers,” the Department has said in its warning about the calls and text-based scams.

“If you have received such a call from this number please report it to the Gardaí immediately. The Department of Social Protection’s staff will never ask you for your bank details if they should have reason to call you over the phone.”