More than 76pc of Irish consumers targeted by scams – NCA

1 Apr 2010

More than 76pc of Irish consumers have indicated that either they or a family member have been targeted by a scam, new research from the National Consumer Agency (NCA) has revealed.

According to the agency’s latest research, carried out during March 2010 by Behaviour & Attitudes, while 80pc of respondents are either entirely confident or largely confident of spotting a scam, 18pc of Irish consumers have still lost money or valuable personal information through a scam.

The research shows that while chain letters, foreign lotteries and pyramid selling schemes have the highest levels of awareness among the public, the scams claiming the most victims are in fact premium-rate phone prize schemes and bogus callers/tradesmen.

“There is a large variety of scams out there, including pyramid schemes, chain letters, dodgy prize draws, ‘phishing’ scams seeking to gain access to personal bank account details and boiler room scams where investors are sold worthless shares, foreign currency or other ‘investments’ using high-pressure techniques. We are being targeted by callers to our homes, over the internet, via email, over the phone (voice or text), by personalised letter and by leaflet drop,” outlined Ann Fitzgerald, chief executive of the NCA.

“A notable feature over the past year or so is the growth in schemes seeking to capitalise on the current economic situation. The clear message is that there have never been more attempts to scam people, so consumers need to be extra vigilant.

“There is no limit to the ingenuity of scam artists in devising new ways of parting people from their hard-earned cash. The age-old advice is as valid today as it ever was – ‘If it looks too good to be true, it probably is’,” Fitzgerald said.

Warning on ‘working from home’ scams

The NCA is also urging consumers to be cautious about ‘working from home’ schemes, particularly those that offer easy money for little effort.

While there are legitimate work from home schemes, many are not legitimate, the agency said.

Consumers are urged to thoroughly research any work from home offer, satisfy themselves that the business is legitimate and be sceptical of claims about how much can be earned. In particular, consumers should be mindful of any offer of work that requires payment of a cash sum up front,” Fitzgerald said.

Scammers pitching to Irish consumers

The NCA also pointed to the fact that scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are localising their pitch to Irish circumstances.

In the past year, the NCA said it has been made aware of scams purporting to originate from Irish organisations or directly from the State – cases in point include an email alleging to be from the Revenue Commissioners offering a tax refund and a letter purporting to be from MABS offering a government grant.

The NCA’s advice to avoid falling prey to a scam:

  1. – Stop, think and be sceptical
  2. – Ensure that you fully understand any offers made to you – if in doubt, ask detailed questions
  3. – Read the small print
  4. – Seek advice from family/friends or others who may be able to counsel you
  5. – Don’t be rushed or pressured into making a decision – if an offer is genuine, you should be allowed time to consider it
  6. – Never provide personal or financial information in response to unsolicited requests
  7. – Never, ever send money in order to claim a prize
  8. – Check the bona fides of any unsolicited callers/emailers by directly contacting the organisation they claim to represent
  9. – Ensure you have full contact details, including an address, not just a PO Box number or mobile phone number
  10. – Say NO if in any doubt.

And finally – cut your losses. According to the NCA, if you are unfortunate enough to have been caught by a scam, don’t be tempted to recoup your losses by responding to an even more attractive “offer” as scam artists also make money by selling on so-called “suckers lists” to others.

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Photo: More than three-quarters of Irish consumers have been the targets of scams, including phishing scams, the National Consumer Agency has reported