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Banks issue warning about Covid-19 scam attempts

The banking industry here has warned consumers to be on the lookout for an expected rise in online fraud and scam attempts that try to take advantage of the circumstances around the Covid-19 crisis.

The Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) FraudSMART campaign says people need to be extra vigilant, take their time to do relevant checks and always report suspicious activity to their bank or local Garda station immediately.

It follows a rise in fraud and scam attempts under the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic in other countries, including the UK.

The warning comes as new figures from the BPFI show that overall card fraud across the banking industry reached €12m in the first half of 2019.

“In the coming weeks and months we believe that there will be significant attempts at fraudulent activity around Covid-19 related scams with the potential for substantial losses as fraudsters seek to capitalise on the heightened anxieties of the public during the current crisis,” said Brian Hayes, chief executive of the BPFI.

“With a range of financial and other Covid-19 supports now available for impacted consumers and business we anticipate that fraudsters will target victims via email, text, phone and social media by posing as genuine organisations including government, banks and health care providers in an attempt to get victims to disclose personal or financial information.”
Already there have been cases of fraudsters trying to take advantage of the new Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment by posing as officials asking for financial details to process this payment.

With many people turning to online shopping due to the restrictions on movement, the risks there have also increased, according to the BPFI.

Around 80% of card fraud involved online shopping with the remainder taking place when using a card in store. 

Many of the examples off the types of fraud attempts circulating online in the UK at the moment are focused on online shopping, including scams where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and other products, which have never arrived. 

One victim reported losing over £15,000 when they purchased face masks that were never delivered. 

Over 200 reports of coronavirus-themed phishing emails have also been reported, including messages purporting to be from a research group that mimic the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO)

These attempt to trick people into opening malicious attachments which could lead to fraudsters stealing people’s personal information, email logins and passwords and banking details.

According to the UK’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) there have been 105 reports of Covid-19 related since 1 February 2020, with total losses reaching nearly £970,000.

The BPFI says people should be beware of emails, online requests, and online advertisements offering Covid-19 related tests and products purporting to be vaccines or cures.

They should also always independently check websites or dial the phone number of the company using their website and beware of unsolicited emails asking for personal details or asking the reader to click on a link. 
The advice has been echoed by Bank of Ireland, which said today asked its customers to remain vigilant for online fraud, particularly during the pandemic.

“With large numbers of people working remotely and more people generally conducting their daily business online, fraudsters may use this as an opportunity to pull off successful scams,” it said.

“Bank of Ireland is urging customers to be wary of newly created fake websites, and not to respond to bogus SMS text messages seeking their personal details.”

It said some of the scams currently in circulation include: 
* Fraudulent WhatsApp messages offering “banking advice”
* Suspicious social media posts linking back to fake websites
* Requests to dial high costs phone lines operating as advice centres
* Calls from fake medical or charitable organisations asking for urgent money transfers
* Suspicious emails or texts asking for personal details or linking to fake websites

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