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Elaborate investment scams on the rise, with people at retirement age the 'key target group'

The scams are ‘particularly targeted at those in the over 55 age bracket and with a minimum investment of €20,000′.

CONSUMERS ARE BEING warned of a rise in “highly convincing” serious investment scams.

FraudSMART, the fraud awareness initiative led by Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), said fraudsters are using “highly convincing” brochures that “appear to be legitimate”.

Brochures using the names and branding of well-recognised, legitimate bonds and investment schemes are being circulated by fraudsters and advertised online.

FraudSMART notes that the scams are “particularly targeted at those in the over 55 age bracket and with a minimum investment of €20,000”.

Niamh Davenport, Head of Financial Crime with BPFI, warns that there’s been an increase in recent months of “serious and elaborate investment scams and the numbers are continuing to increase”.

She described those at, or coming close to, retirement age are the “key target group”.

“The fraudsters hide behind websites, including product comparison websites, which appear to be legitimate and also make contact via cold calling, unsolicited emails, social media and text messages,” said Davenport.

Davenport also noted that not all victims are wealthy: “While amounts [like €20,000] may seem high it’s important to point out that the victims are not necessarily wealthy customers.

“Often people on low to average incomes who have worked hard all their lives to build up a pension and are at a stage where they are looking for a last opportunity to top up their finances ahead of retirement.

“In one reported incident an older customer was about to invest €60,000 from their pension into what appeared to be a legitimate scheme. Fortunately, the customer made a call directly to their bank before pushing the payment through and this meant that the fraud was identified and averted.” 

Davenport said while we like to think we would recognise a scam if we saw it, “the truth is any of us can fall victim to fraudsters if we’re not on the alert”.

She said: “The rule of thumb is ‘if it looks too good to be true it probably is’.”

FraudSMART notes that some red flags to look out for include being cold-called about an investment opportunity.

Other red flags include being rushed and pressured into making a decision there and then, with no opportunity or time to consider the details of the investment, and being given the “promise” of a quick and profitable return on investment with little or no risk.

FraudSMART has called on people to “stop and think” and to take your time, noting that it is important to remember that there are “very few legitimate investment opportunities that require you to hand over or transfer money immediately”.

People have also been called on to undertake thorough research and to verify all the information, via the Central Bank Consumer Hub or a trusted third party.

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