Scam calls: from threats of arrest to scamming the scammers – here are your stories

‘I get calls from Cuba or North Macedonia. Strange as it happened within 10 days of HSE hack’

‘Unfortunately, my aunt fell for a phone scam and had her computer hacked. She ended up having to get rid of her computer.’

‘Unfortunately, my aunt fell for a phone scam and had her computer hacked. She ended up having to get rid of her computer.’

 

There has been a sharp rise in scam phone call and emails to Irish residents in recent weeks, with some recipients claiming they have been threatened during the call with arrest if they do not provide personal data.

The upsurge has prompted a range of State agencies to issue warnings about these calls and to advise people not to engage.

We asked Irish Times readers if they had received such calls and to share their experience of what happened in a bid to forewarn others who may receive such calls in future.

We received a very large volume of responses and our thanks to all who got in contact.

A selection of the responses is below, some of which have been edited for length or to avoid duplication.

Colm Finn
Fermoy, Co Cork
I regularly receive scam calls as my mobile and landline numbers are widely advertised as part of my business.

On the rare occasions when I have time, I like to play along and waste the scammers time. But recently a scammer took offense and tied up my main business phone line for 30 minutes by calling it over and over.

I propose a simple solution: Where scam texts are an issue the banks should route their messages through a clearing house operated by the phone companies.

The phone companies could then block all fake bank massages as they would be clearly able to determine that the origin isn’t their own clearing house.

I would like if the phone companies could find a way to allow customers to choose to not receive any calls that are VoIP [voice over internet protocol – a way of making phone calls free or at low cost using the internet]. This would eliminate all scam calls as it is the method used by scammers.

Dermot Kelly
Nenagh, Co Tipperary
Getting calls from Cuba or North Macedonia on a daily basis now. Strange as it happened within 10 days of the HSE hack.

Gerard Malone
Mullingar , Co Westmeath
I got three phone calls from three different 083 numbers claiming to be from Social Welfare, informing me that I had committed fraud! I hung up every time!

Jen
Dublin
I got a call from a woman saying she had me booked for an eye appointment (she didn’t even mention what clinic she was calling from). I told her she had the wrong number but she kept insisting I confirm my details. She called on an 087 number. “I have this number here on your details and booked in, can you confirm your details.” The number comes up as “unsafe” when I looked it up.

Fergus Gillic
Athlone, Co Westmeath
I use a mobile 100 per cent of the time, but I still have a landline connected at my home address. Every time the landline rings I simply answer it with “hello, what scam is this now...” I’m rarely ever wrong. The scam callers are constant to my landline.

Brian Hegarty
Cork
Had two calls. One saying “this is Revenue we believe your PPS number has been used for fraudulent claims, money laundering and drugs,” under some sort of act. I just hung up the phone. It was an automated recording. It was from an 083 number.

The second call said they were from the HSE, again it was an automated recording. That was from an landline 054 number. Again I just hung up the phone. I did ring Revenue and tried to find out if they knew about it. They said they were aware of it but don’t know where it’s originating from.

Mary Silke
Ballinasloe, Co Galway
I received a phone call advising me that my Amazon Prime subscription was being renewed at a charge of €79.

The caller instructed me to get my smartphone and wanted to give me directions regarding how to cancel the subscription. I said I would do it myself and hung up. My Amazon Prime membership is complimentary with my Eir package and I have not activated it.

Anna Lammers
I sure have been contacted by phone scammers. With the most recent one, someone with an American accent came on and said there was a warrant out for my arrest because of unpaid taxes with the IRS in the US. I immediately hung up.

The one before that was someone pretending to be from HM Inland Revenue and Customs, which isn’t even Irish.

The scam prior to this one was a person pretending to be from Microsoft and he was ringing me to alert me to a problem with Windows and that he could help me fix the problem over the phone.

Unfortunately, my aunt did fall for this scam and had her computer hacked. She ended up having to physically get rid of her computer.

I decided to have a bit of fun with this scammer and explained to him I still had an old-fashioned landline and that my computer was in another room and asked him to explain to me what to do so I could write it down and then start fixing this Windows glitch.

I kept up this “writing it down” and following his instructions while supposedly running back and forth to my computer for about half an hour.

Sometimes I’d come back and say I took something down wrong or I had forgotten what he had said and that it wasn’t working. So he had to repeat it all again. I was absolutely cracking up because you could tell this guy was getting annoyed with me.

Anyway, eventually he must have realised he was being scammed and he hung up! I got such satisfaction from that and had great fun scamming the scammer!

Abhishek Tyagi
Dublin
My wife and I both got calls from a number starting with 0457. While the call I got purported to be from Revenue, and a threat of arrest if I don’t pay up the tax money; my wife’s call claimed to be from Social Welfare, and [cited] an arrest warrant for social welfare fraud. In both cases the money due could be paid by clicking 1 and entering card details. What is scary is how they got hold of our phone numbers.

Neal Breen
Dublin
I’ve been contacted four times in one day from a mobile number – always with an 083 prefix. I’ve only answered the call twice but both occasions lead to a recorded voice message being played which informs me that they are calling from the Department of Social Welfare and my PPS number has been implicated in international fraud. I am invited to press 1 for further information. I have not pressed 1!

John Byrne
Dublin
I received two recent calls. The first said my public services card was under investigation for recent transactions (I don’t have one) and to dial 1 to speak to a lawyer about it.

Another one, more concerning than the first, was a call from a representative claiming to work for Electric Ireland with an Asian accent advising me that he had an offer for me – if I would just confirm the personal details he had on his screen. I told him no, to which he became quite irritated and said he was asking to simply confirm the details he already held. I said “sorry, not interested” and hung up.

Rory Malone
Ireland
I got a phone call from an Irish number. When I picked up the phone a text-to-voice voice started saying that they have my PPS number and will be suspending my account (no specification as to which account) and that they are launching a criminal investigation on me on the grounds of fraud and drug trafficking.

To speak with the officer dealing with my case I was requested to press 1. Once I did this the phone rang for about 5 seconds. A woman with an Indian accent picked up the phone and proceeded to tell me how my account would be suspended if I do not give her all of my bank account information, date of birth, address and PPS number. At this point I knew it was a scam so I refused, after a weak attempt to inform me of the “severity” of the situation she hung up.

Elizabeth
Tralee, Co Kerry
I received a call saying they had my PPS number and I was in trouble with the law. I immediately hung up the phone, and blocked the number, but it was very unnerving.

Domhnall Sioradáin
I received a call from a recorded voice claiming my PPS was linked to an arrest warrant. Bizarre! A bit curious as to what might have resulted from pressing 1. But I resisted...

David Walker
I got the same automated message informing me that it was from the Department of Social Welfare and stating that there had been criminal activity linked to my PPS number and that if I wished to avoid an arrest warrant being issued I should click 1.

I thought this was strange so I hung up. By the time I got home at around 5.15pm this had been on my mind almost constantly and I was unable to relax. I don’t find it so easy to deal with stress now as I did when I was younger so I found this whole thing very unsettling. I rang my local Garda station and was told that An Garda Síochána was aware of this scam and actively investigating. However, I am still unsettled by the whole experience.

Aine Barrett
Colorado, US
Phone and email scams are part of life over here. The now famous “your car warranty has expired” (starship warranty to the enterprise!), “your Amazon account has been debited $499” or “a local law enforcer, usually a sheriff, has four arrest warrants in your name and is on the way to your location”.

Also, recently “you have won a large prize from XXXX store, (there isn’t one in this city!) And “your arrest for unpaid taxes” and I want to buy your property in XXXX. Also, “you have won a vacation at a five star hotel in XXX”.

Dara Coyne
Dublin
I got the a call from an alleged 088 number: 088-2266442. It was obvious to me that an American accent and non-Irish terminology were used in the recording. When answered, a person with an Indian accent claimed to be from Department of Social Protection.

I claimed to be from DSP and insisted on how I could help him, he hung up. In addition, the same weekend, I got three text messages claiming to be from Bank of Ireland and AIB, managing to replicate AIB’s number to put the message with my legitimate AIB messages. They said “AIB: We have temporarily restricted access to your AIB account due to suspicious activity, to re-authenticate visit: https://aib.self-authenticate.com.”

The two I received purporting to be BOI were nearly identical. All sites were hosted by godaddy.com which I reported to. A warning message started showing up after a couple of hours.

The two false BOI sites were: https://boi.365-self-authenticate.com and https://boi.verification-now.com. Surely GoDaddy could make a link to the person who set up all these sites?

It is interesting and dangerous to note that they use the flexibility now allowed on the ‘www.’ bit of the web addresses to make them look legit.

Paul Dever
A guy with a Dublin accent rang me telling me there was a problem with my bank account. He knew my bank and said we had to go through KYC before he could tell me the problem. I told him the bank says they will never ring you like this, he said that’s not true but needed my KYC info to progress. I laughed at him and said sure listen if there’s a problem they’ll just put a hold on my account and told him goodbye.