A financial scam is an attempt to con you out of your money. Scammers are now using more sophisticated methods than ever to try to gain access to your money and personal data. These include the use of fake websites, phishing emails, scam texts and phone calls.
There are many different ways in which financial scams target people.
Card scams are when scammers steal your money or buy things using your bank card or a copy of your card. There are a few ways they might get your details:
Skimming a debit or credit card is where scammers copy the data on your card using a device called a skimmer. Scammers use this data to create counterfeit cards that they can use to withdraw money or use it to pay for shopping online or instore. This scam happens when a skimming device is placed over or in an ATM card reader and a small hidden camera is used to see what PIN you enter. They can also capture your PIN by placing a fake keypad over the real one that can record the numbers you enter. You may not realise anything has gone wrong until money starts disappearing from your account. Always keep an eye out for any transactions on your account that don’t look familiar.
Card trapping is when a scammer places a device over or in the card reader of an ATM. After you insert your card and enter your PIN, the device traps your card and doesn’t return it. Most people leave the ATM believing the machine has malfunctioned. As soon as they leave, the scammer removes the device and takes your card.
Always cover the keypad when entering your PIN. If an ATM looks like it has been tampered with, find another one nearby and report the suspicious one.
Contactless card scams
Contactless scams happen when scammers use a card-reading device to steal the card number and expiry date from your debit or credit card. They then have these details to pay for items online. With contactless technology, they only need to have the device close to your card and can even get your details while your cards are in your pocket or bag.
Ways to keep your card safe
- Never write your PIN down. Try not to use the same PIN for all your cards.
- If you notice anything unusual about an ATM, do not use it. For example, the keypad may seem loose, or the card reader is sticking out.
- Use ATMs that are in busy well-lit areas. Those in more isolated areas can be easier to fit with skimming devices.
- Keep a close eye on your bank statements. Check for any unusual activity and contact your bank immediately if you notice anything.
- Keep your bank card provider’s contact number close to hand. You may need to let them know immediately of any suspicious activity in your account.
- There are ‘RFID shield’ purses and wallets available that can protect your card from being read by card-reading devices.
- Never let someone take your card out of your sight to process a payment.
Pension scammers trick people into taking money out of their pension funds. Scammers try to convince you to reinvest your pension with the promise of high returns. Victims are urged to transfer their pension pot into a scheme which doesn’t exist.
How pension scams work
Scammers make contact by email, text, social media or cold call you. They’ll typically pose as a pension adviser and pretend to be from a legitimate financial or investment company. Copycat ads imitating legitimate schemes are a common ploy online.
Always check that the financial services firm or person contacting you is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. You can look for this on the central bank register. Even if the firm is on the register, you still need to check you are interacting with them and not a scammer pretending to be them.
Warning signs of a pension scam
Scammers create very convincing offers to persuade you to transfer your pension. There are certain signs you should be alert for:
- getting an investment offer out of the blue
- promising you a ‘guaranteed’ or high return
- directing you to a fake investment comparison website
- pressurising you to act fast within a time limit
- offering to review your pension
- asking you to release money from your pension fund before you reach 55
1. Remember to stop, think and check – If it seems too good to be true it probably is!
2. Refuse to hand over money immediately – very few legitimate investment opportunities ask for this.
3. Don’t be rushed into making any decisions about your pension, especially if you are
unsure about the person contacting you.
4. Research to see that the investment is genuine.
5. Be wary of anyone offering you a ‘free’ pension review.
Who to contact
If you think you may have fallen victim to a pension scam, contact your bank immediately. They can secure your account and advise you. Report any unauthorised pension funds provider to the central bank. You should also contact your local Garda station.
Money mule scams
Money transfer scams take place through the use of money mules. A money mule is someone recruited by criminals to receive illegal money into their bank account and transfer it to other accounts. They get rewarded for making these transfers with money, similar to a commission payment. It’s a way for criminals to launder money.
People can get scammed into becoming a money mule without realising it. Students, unemployed people and newcomers to a country can be particularly vulnerable.
Did you know?
If you are caught acting as a money mule, even if you didn’t do it knowingly, you can face a prison sentence or fine.
Most people who are targeted don’t realise that the money they’re asked to move through their account comes from the proceeds of crime. It is illegal money that has already been taken from people through online or text messaging. The money being moved through the money mules accounts is used to fund other crimes like drug and people trafficking. This is why the consequences for money muling are so serious and can result in a criminal record.
How money mules are targeted
The scam will try to lure you in by making an offer that seems too good to be true. Examples include work from home jobs, freelance opportunities or ads looking for money transfer agents.
As soon as the money gets transferred to your account, you’ll be directed to move it to another money mule’s account. This triggers a chain resulting in the money ending up in the criminal’s account. The criminals manipulate your account to distance themselves from detection.
Criminals use many financial tools to move funds through the money mule accounts. These include bank accounts, cashier’s cheques, virtual currency, prepaid debit cards and money transfer agencies.
Signs of a money mule scam
Crime groups have developed new ways of scamming people into becoming money mules. This fraudulent activity mainly takes place online. People can be approached in person too.
Here are the main red flags to be aware of:
- direct approaches through social media or instant messaging apps
- emails asking for your bank account details or to click on a dubious link
- social media posts advertising job opportunities with a high cash reward
- a professional-looking website that’s identical to a genuine business or organisation
If you get caught by a money mule scam
It is a criminal offence to act as a money mule. You should immediately notify your local Gardaí station if you believe someone is trying to scam you into becoming a money mule. Reporting the incident to the Gardaí could save other people from falling victim.
Invoice redirect scams
Invoice redirect scams involve an individual or business getting cheated into sending a payment to a fraudulent account. It is also known as payment redirection fraud.
In this type of financial fraud, the scammer will pretend to be a supplier of goods or services that you already do business with. They contact you to tell you that their bank account details have changed and ask you to send future payments to a new account. This ‘new’ account is controlled by the scammer. Invoice redirect scams have all the classic signs of a phishing scam, know the signs of phishing.
How an invoice redirect scam works
The scammer will contact you, pretending to be a supplier known to you. They ask you to change the bank account details you have for the legitimate supplier. After you change the bank details and send payment to the scammer’s bank account, the funds are quickly withdrawn.
Tips to prevent invoice redirect scams
As the victim of an invoice redirect scam, you may not realise what’s happened until the legitimate supplier sends their invoice for payment. This can be sometime later, so it’s vital you know what to stay alert for and what actions to take:
- Always contact suppliers using a trusted phone number.
- Check email addresses are spelt correctly.
- When paying an invoice, confirm payment and the precise bank account.
- Always check the IBAN number provided – which country is it in?
- Delay transferring any payment until you’ve had a chance to check it out fully.
If a company requests change of payment details, always follow simple verification steps. Never rely upon the email contact details, links or attachments. Contact the supplier independently and check with them that the bank change is genuine.
Who to report it to
Contact your bank immediately if you receive a suspicious email relating to payments. They can advise you what to do. If you believe someone is trying to scam you into redirecting payment, you should contact the your local Gardai station.
Last updated on 21 November 2023
- Cross-border useful links
- Understanding mortgages
- Applying for a mortgage
- Switching mortgages
- What to do if your mortgage application is refused
- Equity release mortgages
- Changing your mortgage
- Mortgage arrears
- Supports for first time buyers
- Mortgage protection insurance
- Credit cards
- Jargon buster
- Buy Now Pay Later
- Applying for a loan
- Paying for your car
- Your credit history
- Personal loans
- Consolidating debts
- Payment protection insurance
- High cost credit loans (moneylender loans)
- Mortgage top-up
- Equity release
- It Makes Sense scheme
- Getting financial advice
- Mortgage protection insurance
- Car insurance
- Payment protection insurance
- Travel insurance
- Getting insurance quotes
- Income protection insurance
- Whole of life insurance
- Serious illness insurance
- Pet insurance
- Making an insurance claim
- Home insurance
- Term life insurance
- Health insurance
- Gadget insurance