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Debunked: That 'extremely sophisticated' bank scam doing the rounds on WhatsApp is completely false

It’s not true.

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THERE IS ANOTHER WhatsApp message doing the rounds at the moment warning people of an “extremely sophisticated” bank scam which is wiping out people’s bank accounts at an alarming rate. 

There’s just one problem – it’s not true. 

Here is a screengrab of the message: 

Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 16.30.17 Source: WhatsApp

There are a couple of different versions being sent around, but the most common one reads: 

“Extremely sophisticated scam going about this morning. Bank customers get a message saying a payment hasn’t been taken, eg O2 and to click here. As soon as you touch it, the money is gone. They already have all your details and it’s the most advance (sic) scam the banks have ever seen. Pass this on to everyone. Please. This is from work this morning – they are being inundated with calls – thousands flying out of peoples (sic) accounts!”

TheJournal.ie contacted the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland (BPFI), which represents the banking and payments institutions in this country,  in relation to this message. 

A spokesperson for the group said: “The BPFI can confirm this message should be dismissed as bogus.”

There is no such scam going around, and the method described in the message is not viable as a way to get money. 

Other organisations have also debunked the message which has been shared in the UK too. Another version of this message names Danske Bank as being the affected bank.  The bank put out a statement on Monday saying that the message is completely false, and described it as a ‘smishing’ scam. 

Tweet by @Danske Bank Source: Danske Bank/Twitter

“Smishing scams are really common,” the statement said. “If you receive a message requesting personal informatino under the pretence of needing to make a payment, do not click on the link or provide the information is being requested.”

The City of London Police and Action Fraud, the UK’s national cyber fraud reporting agency, also confirmed that the information was false. 

Tweet by @City of London Police | #StayHomeSaveLives Source: City of London Police | #StayHomeSaveLives/Twitter

Although this particular scam was deemed to be a fake, the BPFI, gardaí and the majority of Irish banks have issued warnings to people to beware of false communications from people who are pretending to be from either banks or government departments. 

Bank of Ireland has also asked its customers to remain vigilant for online fraud, with increased potential for fraudsters to exploit the current period of uncertainty driven by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The bank said it is urging customers to be wary of newly created fake websites, and not to respond to bogus text messages seeking their personal details. Customers should also watch out for the following scams currently in circulation:

  • Fraudulent WhatsApp messages offering “banking advice”
  • Suspicious social media posts linking back to fake websites
  • Requests to dial high costs phone lines operating as advice centres
  • Calls from fake medical or charitable organisations asking for urgent money transfers
  • Suspicious emails or texts asking for personal details or linking to fake websites

Anybody who suspects a message to be false is asked to contact their bank and not to click through the link until it is confirmed by the bank that it is safe to do so.

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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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