John Hearne cautions people to be on high alert as seasonal scams seem to be on the rise, so particularly watch out for fraudulent emails.
BEWARE the Netflix scam currently doing the rounds. You get an email telling you there’s an error in your account, and that if your information is not updated within 24 hours, access will be restricted.
The email is not actually from Netflix at all of course. This a classic ‘phishing’ scam. Tens of thousands of people receive the same email and while most will take one look, see the attempted fraud for what it is and delete, a small number will take it at face value, click the link and leave themselves vulnerable to theft.
Some scams you can spot a mile off, but they are like viruses, constantly mutating and evolving into stronger, more poisonous forms. These days, scammers attack from all angles — via phone, email, social media, through advertising, through conventional mail ... the list goes on.
Legitimate companies won’t look for payment information — credit or debit card numbers, PINs or account details — in an email. Nor will they ask for your account password or your social security number. If you get an email and you’re not sure of it, hovering over the link will tell you where it will bring you. If in doubt, don’t click. Delete instead.
A recent survey from the Banking and Payments Federation (BPFI) reveals that almost half of young adults aged between 18 and 24 have been targeted by fraudsters on a monthly basis.
Among 18-24-year olds who said they had money stolen in the past, the average sum lost to fraud scams amounted to €228, enough to help cover a week’s rent in central Dublin, buy groceries for the month or pay for a bigger ticket item like an Electric Picnic ticket.
Just one in three young adults (30%) realised that their money was missing, or personal data had been stolen within 24 hours of the incident, while a further 30% noticed within the week. Worryingly, one in every five (20%) said they were unaware of the fraud for more than a year.
When asked to recall how someone had attempted to obtain bank or personal details in the past twelve months for fraudulent purposes, almost one-third (31%) of young people surveyed said they were targeted via email, one-quarter (26%) via calls to their mobile phone, and a further one in five (22%) by text message.
Niamh Davenport leads the BPFI FraudSMART programme. She says that fraudsters know that classified ads attract young people looking for part-time and casual work over the summer.
“False ads that trick young people into transferring money, handing over card details or other personal information can pop up while browsing online, show up in a social network feed, be sent by email or posted in a public place such as a community noticeboard. If the offer looks too good to be true, it probably is. When it comes to being fraud smart, we’re urging young people to challenge what they see and check with someone they trust before signing up for more than they bargained for.”
As the accommodation crisis continues, rental scams remain the most aggressive and — sadly — the most successful category of economic fraud out there.
Edel Conlon of Threshold in Cork says that they have recently dealt with a number of cases of students, primarily from overseas, who have been victims of rental fraud. In two recent cases, students from Brazil were duped into paying €1,750 in rent for a non-existent tenancy.
“We strongly advise people to be cautious of a landlord who claims to be out of the country and can’t show you the property but requests a deposit anyway. Would-be renters should also be mindful that in some instances a scammer could be living at the property and showing a number of people around, getting a deposit from several people and then disappearing with the money.”
“In other instances, the transaction appears normal until the renter finds that the keys don’t work and the ‘landlord’ has disappeared. People need to establish that the house exists, that it is available for rent, the identity of the landlord /agent and that the person advertising the property is authorised to rent it out.”
Some scammers communicate exclusively by email, and will ask you to pay directly to a bank account to secure the property. In order to make the whole thing seem more legitimate, they’ll ask you to send on some form of identification along with the transaction receipt. In these cases, not alone do you lose your money, but your ID may subsequently be used for fraudulent activity.
To ensure you don’t fall into any of these traps, you’ve got to be able to recognise the red flags when you see them.
Property rental site, Daft.ie agrees that the long-distance landlord is one of the most obvious of these. If the person you’re corresponding with is in a foreign country, or comes up with some other reason why he can’t meet you, listen to those alarm bells, no matter how plausible the excuse.
The scammer wants your money, and they want to get it in a form that leaves as few traces as possible.
Beware if you’re asked to send money via Western Union or some other electronic transfer service. Watch out too if a prospective landlord over-shares, if you’re getting information about their financial or family problems. Sob stories are used to create empathy and gain trust. Be particularly suspicious if their circumstances prevent them from meeting you.
Excessive typos in the wording of the ad, or in the subsequent correspondence may also indicate that you’re dealing with a scammer.
There are many ways that you can fall victim to a scam or fraud. The best defence is to be on your guard. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Never give your personal, bank or credit card details to someone you have never heard of. Remember, banks, credit card companies, utility companies and your internet provider already have your personal details if you are a customer — they would not ask you to confirm them.
Never click on links within emails that you feel a friend or acquaintance wouldn’t normally send or that you are unfamiliar with. Also be very wary of clicking on links in emails that come from an email address that you don’t recognise.
Think twice before responding to a friend’s message requesting money. It could be a scam involving someone hacking into your friend’s email or social media account. The message will appear to be from your friend saying they are abroad, have lost their money and bank cards or they have been stolen and they need you to wire money to them.
Use your bank and credit cards safely and securely. Never let your cards out of your sight and never give anyone your PIN number.
Tips Courtesy the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission — Niamh Davenport, FraudSmart.ie