Victims of text message scams were left out of pocket to the tune of €1,700 on average during the first six months of this year, according to FraudSMART – a fraud awareness initiative led by the Banking and Payments Federation.
Businesses suffered an average loss of €14,000 as a result of invoice fraud but in some cases individual companies lost up to €50,000.
Scams of both varieties have increased in prevalence in recent months with the impending departure of Ulster Bank and KBC Bank from the market here.
Consumers and businesses are being warned to be on high alert for fraudsters seeking to take advantage of the move by thousands of customers to set up new accounts.
“FraudSMART members have seen text message scams almost double in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year,” Niamh Davenport, Head of Financial BPFI and FraudSMART 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, FraudSMART 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,” she added.
The BPFI has launched an information and awareness campaign urging individuals to watch out for suspicious text messages, emails or calls purporting to be from a legitimate organisation such as a bank, utility company or mobile provider.
There have also recently been reported incidents of late of fake correspondence supposedly coming from an employer’s HR department.
The Federation expects fraudsters to be particularly active in the months ahead as many consumers establish new banking and payment arrangements.
“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,” Niamh Davenport said.
Over 70,000 businesses are also on course to move bank accounts giving rise to a greater threat of invoice fraud.
“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,” Ms Davenport explained.
Banks will make ‘best endeavours’ to make sure that customers are not left out of pocket as a result of fraud but in some circumstances it may not be possible and the consumer or business will end up shouldering the loss.
“Everything is case by case,” Niamh Davenport told Morning Ireland.
“They will thoroughly investigate every fraud whether it’s a text message scam or email or phone. If it’s invoice fraud, a long time may have passed so the money has gone out of the fraudster’s account and there’s nothing to return so time is of the essence. The sooner you report it, the more likely you are to get your money back,” she explained.
Ahead of an expected surge in fraudulent communications, Ms Davenport advised consumers and business people to be on the alert.
“Don’t click on any links. If you get a text from your bank, it’s never going to have a link in it. You’ll only ever be asked for a Y or N reply from a bank text specifically. You’ll never be asked for personal information. Any of these things like links, personal information, asking to confirm verify or update – these are all red flags,” she warned.
The BPFI fraud awareness campaign will be launched this week on radio, online and via social media.