Gardaí record 80% increase in phone, email and text scams

More than €640,000 stolen through phishing, vishing and smishing crimes in 2020

Gardaí have urged members of the public to take extra care with their online banking and financial transactions . Photograph: iStock

Gardaí have urged members of the public to take extra care with their online banking and financial transactions . Photograph: iStock

 

More than €640,000 was stolen through phishing, vishing and smishing crimes in 2020, while the number of fraudulent scams of bank customers increased more than three-fold during the first week of February when compared with the previous two years.

Gardaí have urged members of the public to take extra care with their online banking and financial transactions following a an 80 per cent increase in fraudulent activity through text (smishing), email (vishing) and phone calls (phishing) over the past year.

These scams are becoming more prevalent due to the increased numbers of people online and the increasingly sophisticated methods employed by criminals, an Garda Síochána said to mark Fraud Awareness Week.

Some 45 incidents of this fraudulent activity were recorded by gardaí during the first week of February compared to just 13 incidents for the same period in both 2019 and 2020. More than €640,000 was stolen in this manner in 2020 including a case where one customer lost €53,000, said an Garda.

Most of these criminals purport to be a person’s bank, or other financial institution, and invite the user to click on a link which brings them to a cloned website where they are asked for their pin and other personal data including address, date of birth and PPS number.

Gardaí underlined that scammers target people of all ages, noting that 19 of the 45 cases recorded during the first week of February were among people younger than 50. The youngest victim was 17-years-old while the oldest was 88, according to Garda data.

The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) is reminding people never to click on a link in an unsolicited text and to never give away personal data like PIN numbers, card numbers, passwords and time codes.

It noted that banks never request a customer return a card to the bank in such circumstances and advised people to be wary of cold calls. “Just because the number looks Irish does not mean it is,” said an Garda. “Fraudsters use VOIP (voice over IP) numbers.”

If a customer is concerned about such a call they should hang up and ring their bank or service providers from a number advertised on their bill, said an Garda. If a person is expecting a delivery and receives a suspicious text they should be very careful and contact the delivery service, it added. People should not respond to such texts but make a screenshot of the message, delete it and report the incident to the bank or local Garda station.

This latest warning follows a similar warning made by gardaí on Monday around investment fraud scams which have seen people lose more than €40,000, often their entire life savings of pension lump sum, in the last year.

Chief Supt Pat Lordan of the GNECB said victims are often embarrassed or ashamed at having fallen for an investment scam. “Our advice is simple, don’t respond to unsolicited approaches, be wary of wild claims, and never ever let anyone have remote access to your computer.”