Warning over rise in scam bank emails

An escalation in the online raiding of bank accounts by criminals using an email fraud scam has led to new warnings from the gardaí not to respond to requests for personal bank details over the internet.

The warning, issued by the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, is on the back of growing use of “phishing” or scam emails that dupe unsuspecting members of the public out of money.

Det Sgt Matt Sheridan said there has been an escalation in “phishing” since January, hence the renewed warnings.

“At this point we know of in excess of 250-300 victims of phishing who have been defrauded of sums of money ranging between €1,000 to €40,000,” he said.

Phishing involves the sending of a bogus but legitimate-looking email, which will have the appearance of the victim’s bank’s web page, but is created by criminals, in which the victim is asked to log in to their bank account, eg for the purpose of upgrading banking details. The victim is asked to log in using all their security details including passwords and security codes and mobile phone number. Once all security details have been inputted to the scam email, the criminal then has access to the victim’s bank account and money is transferred to a recipient or “mule” account by direct debit. In this way the victim is unwittingly defrauded online.

Det Sgt Sheridan said the bogus emails were very convincing.

“The message sent to the victim will appear to be very familiar, it will look like it’s come from their bank. It’s very believable. But what people need to remember is that your bank will never email you asking for those security details. Why would they, when they already know them?”

He also pointed out that a bank will never ask for a full security code, they only ever request some of the digits.

The Garda bureau is receiving reports daily regarding the theft of money from customers’ accounts. Det Sgt Sheridan said they are being sent from a variety of criminal organisations.

“They used to come from a particular group, but it’s diversified across cultures, a lot of people are involved in this activity, including Irish.”

The current Garda campaign to deter people from responding to phishing emails is part of a co-ordinated approach to tackle the problem along with the financial institutions. Det Sgt Sheridan said phishing scams are attacking the bank infrastructure. Gardaí have made a number of recommendations to prevent people being duped including asking people not to respond to these emails, not to open them and to delete them. They have also appealed to the public to report any suspicious activity on an account immediately to the relevant bank.

“If calling your bank by phone, use the phone number on your bank card and not the one on a bogus web page. If you have been a victim report it to your local Garda station,” he said.

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