Text message scams costing consumers thousands new figures show
Rob Flynn
Staff Writer

The new information campaign comes on the back of thousands of euro being stolen from consumers by highly advanced criminal text message scams known as ‘smishing’.

Victims of text message scams known as ‘smishing’ were conned out of an average of €1,700 during the first half of 2022.

That’s according to a new fraud awareness initiative called FraudSMART announced by the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) this week.

The programme aims to raise consumer and business awareness of the latest financial fraud activity and trends and provide simple and impartial advice on how both can best protect themselves and their resources.

The new information and awareness campaign urges both consumers and businesses to be on high alert for impersonation type scams as thousands of current account customers prepare to move their bank accounts over the coming months.

What the FraudSMART figures reveal

The new figures revealed by FraudSMART show that the average consumer was tricked out of an average of €1,700 per scam from January to June of this year.

This is a doubling of the amount of text message scams being perpetrated against consumers in the first half of the year according to the BPFI.

All the while, businesses In Ireland are seen to be suffering average losses of €14,000 due to invoice fraud according to the latest figures released. However, rather staggeringly, this can increase to €50,000 in some cases.

Speaking on the latest fraud trends and what is anticipated over the coming months, Niamh Davenport, Head of Financial at BPFI and FraudSMART lead said:

Fraudsters are experts at taking advantage of changing situations to commit fraud and with two retail banks leaving the Irish market and hundreds of thousands of personal and businesses customers moving bank accounts, FraudSMART members are anticipating we may see a rise in impersonation fraud attempts which will be based around the process of verifying and updating bank account details.

“In response we have this week launched an information and awareness campaign urging consumer and business to be on high alert in the coming weeks and months to fake text messages, emails or calls pretending to come from trusted organisations such as your bank, utility company, streaming service, mobile provider or even your employers HR Department.

How the scam text messages work

The BPFI said it expects fraudsters to use the account transition period, due to the exit of Ulster Bank and KBC from the Irish market, to obtain personal banking information from customers.

For this reason, it’s important to be aware of the tactics used to make it seem as if your bank is contacting you.

In its most common form, a scammer will send a fake text message pretending to be a customer’s bank and seek personal information through the guise of a problem with a customer’s new account set-up or switch.

This is why it’s especially important for customers of the exiting banks to be extra vigilant when it comes to contact with your existing and new banking provider.

The BPFI is warning customers through FraudSMART, to be on the lookout for text messages that flag fraud on your bank account or impending cancellation of your salary, standing orders, or direct debits to utilities, and which then go on to ask for personal information or account details. 

The BPFI has also said that fraudsters have recently started to follow up texts with a phone call from a number that appears to be your bank, which can be particularly effective on older customers. For this reason it’s imperative to make sure those you care about are informed so they are not taken advantage of.

In conclusion, Davenport said: 

As we launch our campaign this week, our key message, be it to consumers or business, is to take your time, never click on links in texts or emails, and verify any communication, text or email, and do so by using contact details you have on file, the back of your bank card, or via a website directly.

Businesses at serious risk

Businesses are also particularly vulnerable in the current environment according to the new figures released as part of the information campaign. 

With over 70,000 businesses due to move their accounts, there is a greater threat than ever of invoice fraud, the effects of which can be devastating, particularly for SMEs.  

FraudSMART members have seen over 100 cases of invoice fraud already this year, with businesses suffering, on average, losses of €14,000, but which can range up to €50,000. 

Invoice fraud involves a fraudster notifying a company that supplier payment details have changed and providing alternative details in order to defraud the business. The fraudster could be claiming to be from your company's genuine supplier, or even be posing as a member of your own firm.

Key advice for consumers

Here is a list of key advice for consumers, provided by the BPFI, to help prevent yourself from falling victim to online impersonation scams.

  • Do not respond to messages with personal information.
  • Do not click on links or follow directions from somebody on a call without verifying first.
  • A bank will never text/email/phone looking for personal information.
  • Contact your bank/service provider/employer provider directly.
  • Never use contact details from a text message, always independently verify.
  • 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.

Get in touch

Have you been contacted by a fraudster recently? Do you have any advice for consumers on how to spot fake text messages? Let us know in the comments below.

You can also reach out to us on social media with your tips on how to keep your personal information safe. We’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.