An Garda Siochana has once again warned the public about scam calls and texts purporting to be from banks. Fraudsters have been increasingly scamming people by impersonating banks, or other trusted institutions within Ireland, for a while now.
How the scammers work
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, scam calls, texts and emails have all increased. The scammers pose as a trusted institution in an attempt to trick possible victims into giving them personal information which can then be used to rob them.
People have been warned repeatedly by the Gardaí to never click on links sent from a supposed bank, credit card company, government department or utility company number.
Bank customers in particular have been targeted with a lot of scams. Some AIB and Bank of Ireland customers, for example, are receiving messages asking them to complete three security questions. A bank would not ask for this information over text.
Scams have surged during the pandemic
According to the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) the number of scams had increased by 80 per cent in 2020. In the 12 months to July 2021, almost 70 per cent of consumers had been targeted by some form of impersonation scam.
More than half of these scams involved individuals pretending to be from a government department or agency. One in five pretended to be a delivery company, while over a third claimed to be a bank.
The most popular medium for scammers was phone calls with 72 per cent of people contacted by phone. About half that amount were contacted by email.
As an EU survey from earlier this year told us, Irish people are the second most likely to be scammed via a phone call. Only Greece is higher, The Irish Mirror reported.
In June, The Irish Independent reported that Bank of Ireland claimed up to 20 new fraudulent websites were being created every day. This is known as phishing. In the first half of this year alone, Bank of Ireland said there had been a 184 per cent increase in the number of customers being targeted by fraudsters.
Different types of scams
Phishing is another way of saying email fraud. Scammers use a fraudulent website that appears to be the real website of the company. Using this website, thieves try to get people to give them their information that they can then use to steal from them.
Vishing is when a fraudster contacts the potential victim via a phone call. Smishing is when the victim is contacted via text message.
However, the upside of so many scams is that people are a lot more wary of an unknown number. According to BPFI just 3 per cent of people reported providing personal or account information and 2 per cent provided bank or credit card details. Most people (70 per cent) said they did nothing when contacted by a fraudster.
The head of the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau said last month frauds of this nature have increased by 1440 per cent, The Irish Examiner reports. BPFI said that the average amount people are conned out of if they fall for these scams is €5,300.
Why can’t phone companies stop the scams?
People are receiving scam calls and texts from phone numbers that appear to be Irish. They start with 083, 085, 086, 087, then they realise that they are a victim of ‘spoofing’. In many cases the number a person is being called from looks very like their own number,
This makes the call look legitimate and more likely that the person being targeted will call back. However these calls are not originating from Ireland most of the time and that’s what makes it so difficult for phone companies to identify them and shut them down.
In texting scams, where a fake text appears in the middle of an apparent genuine message thread, as can sometimes happen in a chain of text from banks, operators aren’t sure how to stop it, as telecommunications admitted to The Irish Independent.
In the UK, phone networks have agreed to automatically block calls made from abroad that look like a British number. The only exceptions will be for roaming mobiles or legitimate call centres.
In the meantime though, this practise is harming the SMS texting market. Unlike online message chat apps such as WhatsApp or iMessages, standard text messaging doesn’t have end-to-end encryption.