What are scam calls and scam texts?
Scam calls and scam texts are the common name for unwanted, unsolicited nuisance communications generally directed at large groups of the population. Scam calls and scam texts often have the intention of misleading the receiver, so that the receivers of the calls unknowingly provide sensitive information or funds to the scammer.
Why am I getting so many scam calls and scam texts lately?
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic more people are working from home, shopping online, banking online and using social media. This creates opportunities for scammers to steal data and money from unsuspecting users.
Though your phone service provider is likely to be already blocking suspicious numbers, some calls get through as it is difficult to quickly recognise scammers and block their calls and texts efficiently without blocking genuine numbers.
How did the scammers get my number and why are the targeting me?
Scammers use software to call or text a range of numbers at the same time and then note which are answered. Answered numbers are recorded as genuine in-use numbers and may be sold on the internet to other cyber criminals. Therefore, making your number ex-directory or adding your number to the “do not call” register for direct marketing will not prevent scams. If you have fallen victim to a scam previously, you may be contacted by other scammers who claim to be able to help you to get your money back for a fee.
What can I do to protect myself from being scammed?
Unfortunately, scam calls and scam texts can be difficult to identify. Vigilance is important, such as:
- Hang up if a caller pressures you, claims that urgent action is needed or threatens negative consequences. Ask a relative or someone you trust if they think the call was genuine.
- If a call or text message claims to be from a bank, government agency or a company you do business with it is best not to engage with the caller or message the sender. Instead, end the call, look up their official contact details and contact them back to verify if the call is legitimate.
- If you have friends or relatives abroad that may be calling you, store their number (including the country prefix) in your phone. Get to know the prefix for the country they might be calling from.
- If you dial back an unknown number by mistake, hang up immediately if there appears to be no recipient on the other end or where you are left on hold.
- If you are receiving calls late at night, you could turn down the volume on your home phone, or select silent mode or do not disturb mode on your mobile phone.
- If you are getting persistent calls from a number you don’t know, contact your service provider, and request that calls from that number be blocked.
- Sometimes, scammers display a phone number like your own on your caller ID, to increase the likelihood that you will answer the call. If your number is being used in this way, contact your service provider and request that calls from that number be blocked.
- Some mobile phones have the capability of allowing you to screen, block or silence nuisance numbers from contacting you. Check your phone settings to see if this is a feature of your handset or contact your service provider who may be able to assist.
- NEVER provide any personal information, for example, banking details/PPS number/credit card details/name and address/passport numbers, passwords etc to someone who contacts you.
- Do not follow instructions from a recorded message.
- Be wary of receiving multiple calls or missed calls from the same unfamiliar number, especially if it is like your own number. Do not call back any number that you do not recognise or where no voicemail message was left.
- If you click on a link in a scam text, close the web page and message immediately. Do not follow any instructions given after clicking the link.
- Never use a number given to you by the caller.
Who should I contact if I have shared my personal information?
Scam calls and scam texts are illegal. Therefore, you should contact An Garda Siochána immediately as well as your financial institution if you have shared personal information relating to your finances.
What types of scam calls and scam texts are common?
The most common types of scam calls and scam texts currently being experienced by consumers in Ireland appear to be:
- Calling Line Identification Spoofing (“CLI”) – when the number calling you, as displayed on your screen, has been faked by a scammer and appears to be a call from a genuine number.
- SMS Spoofing or Smishing – when the number texting you has been faked by a scammer and appears to be a text from a genuine number. “Smishing” is a combination of the words ‘SMS’ and ‘phishing’ (scam emails designed to gain your trust and encourage you to share information) and is where text messages are sent to trick you into clicking on a malicious attachment or link.
- Wangiri – short calls or faked missed calls prompt you to call back an international number. The call-back provides financial benefit for the scammer, often at your expense.
- Vishing – a combination of ‘voice’ and ‘phishing’ and is a phone call designed to get you to share personal information and financial details, such as account numbers and passwords. A seemingly genuine number is displayed to gain your trust and encourage you to share information. The vishing attempt may sound robotic (see Robocall below).
- Tech Support Scam Calls – calls where a scammer claims to offer a technical support service. The scammer will typically attempt to get you to allow remote access to your computer. After remote access is gained, the scammer attempts to gain your trust to pay for supposed “support” services, to steal your credit card account information or to persuade you to log in to your online banking account to receive a promised refund, only for them to steal more money.
- Robocall – calls generated automatically, where you hear a recorded message that often sounds as if it was a robot listing options that, if selected, will connect you to the scammer. A seemingly genuine number is displayed to gain your trust and encourage you to follow the instructions given.
If you become aware of a variant in the above or a new kind of scam call or scam text, please contact your local Garda station.