What is phishing?

Phishing is when scammers try and get your personal details like bank account and debit/credit card numbers, usernames, passwords, access codes or other sensitive information.

They try to get this through email, social media, messenger apps, fake websites or over the phone and often by pretending to be a bank, utility company, charity or other reputable organisation.

They can use these details to steal money from your bank account, spend money using your credit card, use your identity to get loans in your name or open fraudulent accounts.

Scammers can also use dating apps and websites to try and get you to disclose information or send money. They can use a variety of methods such as claiming they need money to travel to see you or that they have a relative with a serious illness.

They may also phone and claim that they work for a well-known IT company such as Microsoft and that there is an issue with your computer and that they can access it remotely to fix it and you must give your card details to pay to have it fixed.

You get an email that has the same logo, font and style as your bank. The email will have a link that takes you to a website that looks like your bank’s website and asks you to enter or verify your account information, card details or PIN.

The email may seem urgent and warn you that if you don’t provide these details your account may be blocked or card cancelled.

They may also claim that there has been fraudulent activity on your account and that you must confirm your details immediately to prevent the payment going through.

They will try and create a sense of urgency and ask you for details. This is to hurry you into responding, without taking the time to think about it, or take a few steps to check whether the email is genuine.  They may use a generic greeting like ‘Dear Customer’ but they might also use a first name they got from social media.

If you are concerned it is best to contact your bank by phone to check everything is OK with your account. Get their number online or from a previous statement or letter, don’t call any numbers that were in the initial email as these can be answered by the scammers too. Remember, your bank, utility companies etc already have your details, they will not contact you to ask you for them.

Stop and think

If you receive contact like this, stop and ask yourself some common-sense questions before you proceed.

  • Has your bank or electricity provider ever contacted you in this way before?
  • Does the website looking for your personal information have basic security features? A secure website will have an address beginning ‘https’ (the s stands for secure) and a padlock symbol. If you click on this padlock symbol a security certificate should appear.
  • If a lottery contacts you out of the blue telling you about a fortune you have won ask yourself have you entered any lotteries or competitions recently? And why would you have to pay money or provide personal details in order to receive the money you have won?
  • Why is a person you have only spoken to online asking you for money or questions relating to your bank?
  • Why is a government department texting you about a large amount of tax-back you are owed when you have never communicated with them in this way or done anything out of the ordinary in relation to your salary and tax?
top tip
When it comes to your banking and personal details it is OK to be suspicious. Make sure you are completely certain that the person contacting you is genuine even if it means ending a phone call and calling back or visiting the bank’s branch. Take some time and do some research, it could save you a lot of money.
Who to contact

If you think you may have fallen victim to a scam or fraud and have given someone your bank or card details, contact your bank immediately so they can advise you and if necessary put a hold on your account, cancel your cards or carry out additional security when issuing payments and transfers from your account. You should also contact your local Garda station.

You can contact us and tell us about any scams you, your family or friends have experienced as building awareness about scams is one of the best ways to prevent them. If you were scammed somewhere else in Europe contact the European Consumer Centre Ireland.


Last updated on 5 July 2019

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