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Debunked: No, the government hasn't issued a €350 payment to everyone in the country

Members of the public have been warned about a text scam in recent days.

A TEXT MESSAGE which claims the Irish government has issued a €350 payment to all residents in the country as part of its response to Covid-19 has been sent to people’s phones in recent days. 

The message, which has also been posted on social media sites, includes a link, telling recipients to click on it to apply for this payment. 

A Department of Finance spokesperson told TheJournal.ie that the government is aware of these messages, which are part of a text scam. 

Gardaí and the Department of Social Protection have been informed of the fraudulent messages in recent days.

At a briefing yesterday, a government spokesperson said the intention was to give people the impression that they are due a Covid-19 Pandemic Payment -  the State’s new unemployment support – which is €350 per week. 

“We wish to categorically confirm that these texts are not from the government. Anyone who receives such a text message should not click on the link or reply to the text,” she said. 

Experts have advised the public that if a message looks too good to be true, it probably is, and have urged people not to open any links from numbers they don’t recognise.

Gardaí have issued a number of warnings since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in Ireland about fraudsters.

Some scams involve a message or phonecall from someone purporting to be from a legitimate organisation, such as Revenue or a bank, asking for personal information.

Others are attempting to exploit people’s generous natures by asking for donations to a so-called charity. 

Last month gardaí said there has been a “significant increase” in the number of con-artists exploiting people’s coronavirus fears, including some going door-to-door offering Covid-19 tests for cash. 

Fake shops, websites, social media accounts and email addresses claiming to sell surgical masks and other medical equipment in short supply have also sprung up online.

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There is a lot of false news and scaremongering being spread in Ireland at the moment about coronavirus. Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not. 

STOP, THINK AND CHECK 

Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie. 

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