Consumers and businesses are urged to be wary as fraudsters capitalise on confusion over exit of banks from Irish market

Consumers were conned out of an average €1,700 every time they fell for a text message scam during the first half of this year.

t cams as the number of such frauds almost doubled over the same time last year, according to new figures from Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI).

Business owners were also defrauded of an average €14,000 per incident – with some conned out of as much as €50,000 – due to invoice fraud over the same period.

And as hundreds of thousands of Irish bank customers are in the process of moving their bank accounts elsewhere as Ulster Bank and KBC exit from the Irish market, the federation’s Fraud Smart  initiative warns that even more scams are likely as fraudsters take advantage of the situation to impersonate legitimate banks and financial institutions in the coming months.

Niamh Davenport, head of financial BPFI and Fraud Smart lead said: “Fraudsters are experts at taking advantage of changing situations to commit fraud and with two retail banks leaving the Irish market and hundreds of thousands of personal and businesses customers moving bank accounts, Fraud Smart members are anticipating we may see a rise in impersonation fraud attempts which will be based around the process of verifying and updating bank account details.”

As a result, the BPFI and Fraud Smart have launched an information campaign this week urging both consumers and businesses to be “on high alert in the coming weeks and months to fake text messages, emails or calls pretending to come from trusted organisations such as your bank, utility company, streaming service, mobile provider or even your employer’s HR Department.”

“For personal customers we expect fraudsters will use this account transition period to obtain personal information through the guise of a problem with a customer’s new account set-up or switch.

“We are warning consumers to be on the lookout for text messages that flag fraud on your bank account or impending cancellation of your salary, standing orders, or direct debits to utilities and which then go on to ask for personal information or account details. We are aware that fraudsters have recently started to follow up these texts with a phone call from a number that appears to be your bank,” she said.

Business owners are also being urged to be aware that they are at an increased risk of being duped by fraudsters through invoice fraud over the coming months and are “ particularly vulnerable in the current environment,” according to Ms Davenport.

“With over 70,000 businesses due to move their accounts there is a greater threat than ever of invoice fraud; the effects of which can be devastating particularly for SMEs,” she said.

“Already this year Fraud Smart members have seen over a hundred cases of invoice fraud with businesses suffering average losses of €14,000 but which can range up to €50k.

“Invoice fraud involves a fraudster notifying your company that supplier payment details have changed and providing alternative details in order to defraud you.

“The fraudster could be claiming to be from your company’s genuine supplier, or even be posing as a member of your own firm. With so many businesses who will now be legitimately changing their account details, this provides the prefect opportunity for criminals to take advantage,” she said.

“Our key message, be it to consumers or business, is to take your time, never click on links in texts or emails and verify any communication, text or email, and do so by using contact details you have on file, the back of your bank card or via a website directly.”

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