Scam victims are being conned out of an average of €5,300 as new figures show an increase of over 50% in the amount of money lost to fraudsters.
A total of €15.6m has been lost by the victims of scams — including impersonation, investment, and romance scams — according to the latest figures from the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI).
It reveals a sharp rise in the number of scams over the course of the pandemic, with a jump of 80% reported in 2020.
In the 12 months to July 2021, almost 70% of consumers had been targeted by some form of impersonation scam.
Overall, people feel that impersonation scams, particularly fraudulent text messages and phone calls, are more prevalent this year.
Over half of these scams involved individuals pretending to be a Government department or agency, including the Revenue Commissioners and An Garda Síochána.
Seeking to capitalise on the surge in online shopping, one in five pretended to be from a delivery company while over a third claimed to be from a bank.
Victims are contacted across all communication channels, with some scams using combined approaches in a bid to appear more genuine and to increase pressure on potential victims. These scams are communicated through a mixture of emails, cold calls, follow-on calls, voice messages, and text messages.
Phone calls remain the most popular medium for scammers with 72% of people contacted by phone, almost twice as many as were contacted by email. Some 32% reported being contacted via text.
According to an EU survey conducted earlier this year, Irish people are the second most likely citizens of the member states to be victims of fraudulent phone calls.
As the scourge of scams continue, public awareness of them is growing and only a small number of people report engaging with a scammer.
Just 6% said they had clicked on a link in an email, 3% provided personal or account information, and 2% provided bank or credit card details.
The vast majority (70%) said they did nothing when contacted by a fraudster.
Following the publication of today’s report, the BPFI has encouraged people to protect themselves from fraud.
“We are urging all consumers to be wary of answering or returning calls or responding to texts from unknown numbers. Always double check before clicking links or attachments in random or unexpected emails or texts and never give away security details such as PINs or passwords to anyone,” said Brian Hayes, chief executive, BPFI.
Justice Minister Heather Humphreys has also urged people to ignore any contact which seeks to gain sensitive and personal information.
“We have all received the strange phone calls and text messages doing the rounds over the last few months,” said Ms Humphreys.
“We know that it can be very sophisticated, they can be very convincing. Unfortunately, it is very easy to be scammed out of significant amounts of money. As minister for social protection, I’m very conscious that many of the callers are purporting to be from social protection, they’re looking for your PPS number, they’re looking for your bank details. The best thing you can do is ignore, ignore, ignore.”