Tuesday, October 2nd 2007
There are an increasing number of ways that fraudsters
can scam us of our earnings, warns Charlie Weston, and
they are costing us nearly €900m a year
FRAUD is costing us all around €900m a year. This is
made up of around €310m stolen from consumers and private
companies, with social welfare fraud estimated to cost
another €400m, with a further €200m detected and prevented,
according to the new Irish Fraud Bureau.
The new bureau is designed
to allow financial companies to trade information on
fraudulent activities, and so protect innocent consumers.
Launching the Irish Fraud Bureau last week, Justice
Minister Brian Lenihan said there were 10,500 suspicious
transactions reported by financial institutions last
year. Some 98 people were charged and 82 convictions
secured in 2006 with a combined total value of €2.5m.
The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation currently has
in excess of 200 cases of fraud under investigation,
some with an international dimension, the minister said.
He stressed that fraud is not a victimless crime --
both consumers and financial institutions are impacted
The big growth area is cyber cheats stealing
people's identity and making off with their hard-earned
Criminals may try to get your personal financial
details by claiming to be your bank or credit card company.
The easy access provided by the internet brings some
entirely new and unwelcome risks from cyber cheats.
The biggest risks are that personal data will be stolen,
corrupted, or misused by an internet intruder stealing
or tampering with your information; all the time hiding
their unauthorised activity.
Attacks like these take
- An ATM swallows your card for no apparent reason.
This is a well-known scam where a plastic slip is placed
inside the ATM to hold onto your card. The 'passer-by'
tells you to re-enter your PIN so they can see your
PIN when you re-enter it. When you leave the ATM, they
removes the plastic slip with your card inside from
- You get an email or letter that asks you to confirm
your bank account details, PIN number or credit card
number. Many of these emails are sent outside business
hours or at weekends so that you cannot check if they
are legitimate. They may include a contact phone number,
which is different to the one on your card or statement.
- An email says that your account will be frozen if
you do not follow email instructions.
- You get a letter from an organisation you have never
dealt with before. The letter says that they have money
for you from the sale of shares or a lottery win. It
asks you for your bank account details so they can lodge
the money. Sometimes you also get a phone call after
you receive the letter
- Your card is taken by a shop assistant out of sight
to a card terminal elsewhere and your personal details
- You get a phone call from a "boiler room", who use
high pressure sales tactics to sell worthless high-risk
shares, foreign currency or other investments to unsuspecting
You may make money the first time you invest with a
particular boiler room. This is usually not a legitimate
gain, but a tactic used to lure you into investing larger
amounts the next time. The firm's location is usually
exotic and the company name may be similar to a well-known
The Financial Regulator advises that
consumers should always keep their personal financial
Otherwise, there is the danger that other
people could use them to defraud you of your money.
Criminals may try to get your personal financial details
by claiming to be from your bank or credit card company.
They may phone or email you saying that there has been
a 'security breach' on your account and ask you to confirm
your bank account details, your personal identification
number (PIN) or your internet or phone-banking registration
If you want to check if the call or email
is legitimate, phone your bank at the number you normally
use, or the number on your statement. Do not call the
number given in the email or by the caller.
your details on a website that is sent to you as a link
in an email.
Regularly check the transactions on your
bank and credit card statements. If you notice anything
that you are unsure about, report it to your bank or
credit card company immediately.
Protect your personal
finance details by memorising them rather than writing
them down, storing them in your mobile phone or telling
them to anyone.
Tear up, shred or burn any receipts
or statements that show your full card number or PIN.
When you pay with your credit or debit card, don't
let your card out of your sight, particularly when you
Credit cards can be copied in just a few
seconds. If the card terminal is not nearby, ask to
go with the staff member to the terminal.
If your card
is lost or stolen, report it to your card issuer immediately.
Do not delay in reporting the loss, as you could be
held liable for any fraudulent transactions that occur
before you make the report.
Tips to help protect yourself from scams
Never reply to an email or telephone number
that asks you to confirm your bank account details,
PIN number or credit card details. Report the email
to your bank or credit card company and the Garda Bureau
of Fraud Investigation (01) 6663777.
Do not write down
your PIN or give it to anyone. many banks allow you
to change your PIN so you can easily remember it. Cover
the keypad with your hand while you enter your PIN.
If your card has been swallowed by an ATM for no apparent
reason, contact the gardai immediately. If your card
is swallowed because you have entered the wrong PIN
three times, then you should contact your bank.
check the transactions on your bank and credit card
Sign your cards as soon as you receive
them and cut up your old cards when they expire.
by tearing up or burning, any receipts or statements
that show your full card number. Most retailers' receipts
just show the last four digits of your card, but do
check before you throw them away.
When you pay for
goods or services with your credit card, don't let your
card out of your sight, particularly when you are abroad.
Credit cards can be copied in just a few seconds. So
if the card terminal is not nearby, ask to go with the
staff member to the terminal to complete the transaction