You are viewing the content for Thursday 16 February 2006

Fraud alert as bank’s website cloned

By Ed Carty
CONSUMERS were warned yesterday about a series of elaborate internet scams, including one where fraudsters cloned a Bank of Ireland website in a bid to get people’s personal banking details and hack into their accounts.

The Financial Regulator revealed a bogus Bank of Ireland website had been setup to con people into passing on information, including Personal Identification Numbers (PIN). A criminal gang is suspected of cloning the bank’s home page.

A spokeswoman for the Financial Regulator warned people to be extra vigilant.

"It is vital that people continue to safeguard their personal financial information," she said.

"Bogus web addresses and emails may look similar to your own bank or credit card company address. But they will usually ask you for your PIN or other account details. Be very cautious. Your bank would never ask you to reveal your PIN over the internet."

Other elaborate scams include phishing, where mass e-mails are sent out targeting unsuspecting consumers, 419 Fraud, which originates mainly in west Africa and requests bank details via email, and Boiler Room tactics, where telesales agents use high pressure cold calling to target potential investors. People have also been falsely told they have won a foreign state lottery or have been issued valuable shares in a company.

It is estimated that around one billion emails are sent daily in a bid to trap consumers. Experts believe that 5% of people who receive such unsolicited e-mails or letters respond.

All these communications have one thing in common - they are aimed at obtaining your bank account details, the spokeswoman said.

"You should never give your bank details out to a company with whom you have had no previous dealings. If something looks too good to be true, then it probably is," she added.

The Financial Regulator issued guidelines in a bid to protect consumers and crack down on the fraudsters.

* If you receive an email or letter asking you to confirm your bank account details, PIN or credit card number, report it immediately to your bank.

* Fraudulent emails and letters include a contact phone number. Do not telephone this number, instead contact your bank on the normal number.

* Never disclose your PIN to anyone. This is personal information that your bank would never ask you for.

* Fraudulent emails claim that accounts will be frozen if you do not follow instructions. Do not be scared into providing any information, your account will not be frozen.

* Do not reply to emails of this nature. They are often sent out to thousands of email addresses in the hope that some of the addresses are active and a reply will allow fraudsters to pass on details of active accounts.

* Consumers have received unsolicited letters requesting bank account details so that funds from the sale of shares or lottery wins can be lodged to the account.

You should never disclose bank details to anyone with whom you have had no previous dealings.