Consumers and businesses are being urged to be cautious as scammers capitalize on confusion over banks withdrawing from the Irish market

Consumers were cheated out of an average of €1,700 each time they fell for an SMS scam in the first half of this year.

According to new figures from the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), the number of such scams has almost doubled compared to the previous year.

Business owners were defrauded an average of €14,000 per incident due to billing fraud over the same period – some even defrauded as much as €50,000.

And with hundreds of thousands of Irish bank customers in the process of moving their bank accounts elsewhere as Ulster Bank and KBC exit the Irish market, the association’s Fraud Smart initiative warns that even more fraud is likely as scammers take advantage of the situation pass off as legitimate banks and financial institutions in the coming months.

Niamh Davenport, Head of Financial BPFI and Fraud Smart Lead, said: “Fraud Smart Die Members anticipate that we will see an increase in identity theft scams based on the process of verifying and updating bank account details.”

As a result, the BPFI and Fraud Smart launched an information campaign this week, urging both consumers and businesses “to be on high alert over the coming weeks and months to spoofing text messages, emails or phone calls purporting to to come from trustworthy organizations such as your bank, energy supplier, streaming service, mobile phone provider or even your employer’s human resources department.”

“For retail customers, we anticipate that fraudsters will use this account transition period to obtain personal information under the pretense of a problem setting up or switching a customer’s new account.

“We caution consumers to be on the lookout for text messages suggesting fraud on your bank account or imminent termination of your salary, standing orders or utility debits, and then asking for personal or account information. We know scammers have recently started following up on these texts with a call from what appears to be your bank,” she said.

Business owners are also being urged to be aware they are at increased risk of being deceived by fraudsters via bill fraud in the coming months and are “particularly vulnerable in the current environment”, according to Ms Davenport.

“With over 70,000 businesses needing to move their accounts, there is a greater than ever risk of billing fraud, the impact of which can be particularly devastating for SMEs,” she said.

“Already this year, Fraud Smart members have seen over a hundred billing fraud cases where companies have suffered average losses of €14,000, but these can amount to as much as €50,000.

“Invoice fraud involves a scammer informing your business that the supplier payment details have changed and providing alternative details to scam you.

“The scammer could claim to be a genuine supplier of your company or even pose as a member of your own company. With so many companies now lawfully changing their account details, this presents the perfect opportunity for criminals to take advantage of it,” she said.

“Our core message, whether it be for consumers or businesses, is to take your time, never click on links in text or email, and review any communication, text or email and do so using the contact details that you have on the back of your bank card or directly through a website.”

For more information on fraud protection, please log on to Consumers and businesses are being urged to be cautious as scammers capitalize on confusion over banks withdrawing from the Irish market

Fry Electronics Team

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