Banks warn of increase in online scams targeting Covid-19 concerns

Criminals seeking to exploit the situation by tailoring scams to the unfolding crisis

A phishing email from someone posing as the head of the World Health Organisation and asking recipients to donate money to a coronavirus fund. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire

A phishing email from someone posing as the head of the World Health Organisation and asking recipients to donate money to a coronavirus fund. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire

 

Criminals are increasingly targeting scared and vulnerable people online as the coronavirus crisis deepens, with banks and other groups warning that fraud will worsen in the weeks ahead.

With hundreds of thousands of people now working from home or out of work as a result of the pademic, criminals are seeking to exploit the situation by tailoring scams to the pandemic.

Outlining the increased risks involved and the type of scams which are likely to emerge, the chief executive of the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland (BPFI) Brian Hayes said “there will be significant attempts at fraudulent activity around Covid-19 related scams with the potential for substantial losses”.

He said fraudsters would seek to “capitalise on the heightened anxieties of the public during the current crisis”.

With a range of financial and other Covid-19 supports now available for people and businesses impacted by the pandemic, the federation said it anticipated that fraudsters would “target victims via email, text, phone and social media by posing as genuine organisations including government, banks and health care providers in an attempt to get victims to disclose personal or financial information”.

Impersonation

He said there have already been warnings in relation to the new Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment with fraudsters posing as officials asking for financial details to process the payment.

“Unfortunately, this is exactly the type of impersonation fraud we are expecting to see an increase in similar to what is happening in other jurisdictions including the UK,” Mr Hayes said.

He said that in order to get ahead of the fraudsters and prevent people losing money Mr Hayse said it was asking consumers and business “to be extra vigilant”.

He said the scams “may have been adapted for the current crisis the advice in terms of protecting yourself remains the same: don’t be rushed, take you time to do the relevant checks and always immediately report any suspicious activity to you bank or local Garda Station”.

Bank of Ireland has also moved to warn its customers about scam artists and has asked its customers to “remain vigilant for online fraud, with increased potential for fraudsters to exploit the current period of uncertainty driven by the Covid-19 outbreak”.

In a statement, the bank said that with large numbers of people working remotely and more people generally conducting their daily business online, fraudsters “may use this as an opportunity to pull off successful scams”.

The bank urged customers to be wary of newly created websites and not to respond to SMS text messages seeking their personal details.

The bank said customers should also watch out for certain scams currently in wide circulation. These include fraudulent WhatsApp messages offering “banking advice”; suspicious social media posts linking back to fake website; requests to dial high costs phone lines operating as advice centres; calls from fake medical or charitable organisations asking for urgent money transfers and suspicious emails or texts asking for personal details or linking to fake websites.

Key Advice to avoid being scammed

Beware of emails, online requests, and online advertisements offering Covid-19 related tests and products purporting to be vaccines or cures.

Always independently check websites or dial the phone number of the company using their website.

Beware of unsolicited emails asking for personal details or asking you to click on a link. Do not engage - again pick up the phone or independently check the website of the company sending the email.

Never share or give away your credentials. You will never be asked for your credentials by your bank whether related to a payment or refunds.

Utility companies, Government Departments and Revenue will never ask you to reveal personal details over an email or text.

Do not make donations to charities without first checking authenticity.

Always double check with another person before transferring any money or buying any product

Check your bank account often for suspicious activity.