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Fraud

Last minute online shopping? Here are some tips to keep your cash safe from fraudsters

Fraud cases continue to increase.

SHOPPERS MAKING LAST minute purchases ahead of Christmas have been urged to keep their card details safe as debit and credit card fraud continue to spike. 

The Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) has issued guidance this year for people paying for gifts online. 

The BFPI, which is the main representative body for the banking and financial services sector in Ireland, reported near record levels of payment card fraud last year, as many people switched from using cash and shopped online more during the height of the pandemic. 

Their latest report showed how card fraud hit €24 million in 2020 with the vast majority of it taking place online. Latest figures show over a quarter of a million fraudulent debit and credit card transactions which were not made by the card holder. 

The figures were the highest since the second half of 2017, the BPFI warned.

The figures mean that card fraud losses rose by 9% in 2020 with the vast majority of this (96%) accounted for by online card fraud which rose by 21% to €23.1 million.

The BPFI, along with gardaí, have urged all those planning on doing the last of their shopping online to be extremely careful and to remember one golden rule: if something seems too good to be true, then it usually is. 

Common scams

The BPFI warned that criminals often take advantage of ticketed events, especially if sold out, such as concerts, festivals, sporting events and live comedy.

“You buy your ticket online from a private seller or from what looks like a website or agent for the event. You pay your money but either the tickets never arrive or they turn out to be fake,” the payments body warned. 

The trick here is to only buy from authorised sellers, the group urged. 

Adverts selling miracle health or beauty products are common particularly on social media and through online advertising. They claim miraculous benefits and they offer you a free trial.

“All you have to do is to pay for post and packaging or for insurance, but once they have your card details you could end up paying for a lot more. In some cases you will receive nothing in return, in others you’ll receive a product but it doesn’t do what you expected and you find that you have inadvertently signed up to an ongoing contract that is difficult to get out of,” the BPFI warned.

Speaking about the latest card fraud figures and how consumers can stay safe when shopping online this Christmas, Gillian Byrne, Head of Payments, BPFI said: “With more of us shopping online then ever before due to the ongoing pandemic, our latest card fraud figures are a stark reminder that consumers need to be on high alert during what is the busiest online shopping periods of the year.

“With concerns around rising Covid figures drawing ever more consumers online, fraudsters are again stepping up their efforts to take advantage of this increase in online shopping.”

Tips

The BPFI issued the following tips to keep your money safe while shopping online: 

  • Use secure websites. The website address should be ‘https’ before the purchase is made, indicating a secure connection
  • Use sites where a padlock symbol is shown beside the website address
  • Do not under any circumstances use public Wi-Fi when making payments – switch to 3G/4G on your phone if necessary
  • Independently visit the website of the online sales company as opposed to clicking on social media or pop-up adverts
  • Be cautious about claiming outrageous offers – if it sounds too good to be true it probably is
  • Stick to well-known websites or websites that you are familiar with or websites associated with high street retail outlets

Garda investigations

Since the start of the pandemic, gardaí have been warning the public to beware of con artists and fraudsters operating both in person or online. 

Surveys have shown the vast majority of the nation have recevied scam phone calls

The most common scam call in recent weeks have consisted of one of a selection of pre-recorded message purporting to be from the Department of Social Protection.

Recent polling by Red C on behalf of The Journal shows that half of the people surveyed received a scam call in the last week from 083/085/086/087/089 numbers. 

The official Garda advice on these calls is:

  • Do not engage with the caller.
  • Do not return the call.
  • Do not follow the automated instructions – Do not press 1 etc.
  • Never transfer money.
  • Never disclose personal or financial information.
  • Hang up and block the number if possible.

“Whilst the scammers may change their stories and methods, their goal is always the same,” according to a statement from the Garda Press Office, “they want to access your sensitive information and get their hands on your money.”

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