Scam calls are on the rise: what should you do if a fraudster rings?

Reports of scam calls, from ‘083’ and also State office numbers, have increased recently

Gardaí have issued fresh warnings for people to be vigilant against phone and email scams, as fraudsters adapt their tactics to react to people’s apprehension over possible data leaks.

Garda Superintendent Liam Geraghty said fraudsters are quick to adapt their scams based on events being reported on in the news.

The criminal gang behind the cyberattack on the Health Service Executive (HSE) has threatened to publish online some of the patient records it says it stole when it hacked the IT systems, unless a ransom is paid.

To date, there is no evidence of this data being published.


Supt Geraghty said while reports of scam phone calls from ‘083’ and other numbers had surged in the weeks before the HSE hacking the messaging used by some of phone scammers has been adapted to reference this and try and play on people’s fears.

“The scammers are changing their tactics to react to something they know is in the media and are reacting to people’s apprehensions… They have changed that automated message now to one saying they are from the HSE,” he said.

Many scammers do not possess or use any unique personal information about the person they contact but rely on fear and concern to elicit information, Supt Geraghty said.

The fraudsters may claim they are possession of personal information but Supt Geraghty said there have only a few reports from people who believed scammers knew their personal data before ringing them.

He said more usually the criminals have little data and are seeking to slyly obtain information. “It sounds like they know exactly what they are talking about, but they are picking up the pieces from you and repeating them back as if they already know.”

Gardaí advise people not to engage with these callers as to do so may give them an opportunity to elicit information.

Supt Geraghty said their aim is to secure a person’s Personal Public Service (PPS) number, bank details or date of birth.

The automated phone call scams can appear to emanate from official or authentic numbers and have included State offices, including allegedly from Garda Síochána numbers.

The Department of Social Protection has also reiterated its warning about calls purporting to be from its office. One scam call claims there is a warrant out for the recipient’s arrest.

Another, purporting to come from the Department of Social Protection, claims the person will be sued unless they confirm certain details.

Supt Geraghty asked people to warn their elderly or more vulnerable relatives and friends about the scams but to only share real information.

He urged people not to share widely-circulating Whatsapp messages that make fake claims about data sharing and scams. These were spreading fear and false information, he said.


What frauds and scams are circulating?

Fraudsters have been attempting to gain personal information from people through a variety of scams including:

Claiming the recipient is being investigated in relation to criminal activity.

Purporting to warn a person some of their personal information could be leaked.

Pretending someone is eligible for a refund or social welfare payment.

Telling a person they have underpaid or overpaid for some goods or service.

What should I do if I receive a call or message I believe could be a scam?

If you receive a phone call from a number associated with an organisation that you feel could be a scam, hang up immediately. Do not engage, do not press 1 and do not follow links or instructions. Do not download anything or allow remote access software.

You can check the legitimacy of the call by making direct contact with the organisation by finding a publicly-advertised number.

Gardaí are urging people to directly dial the new number and not to redial the original caller.

Anyone who believes they may have been a victim of cybercrime, particularly in relation to the recent cyberattack on the HSE to make a report to their local Garda station.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter