Digital scams targeting life savings and elderly must be tackled

Seán Sherlock TD
09 March 2021
  • Cross Department response needed to constantly evolving frauds.

There must be a comprehensive government response to the increase in financial digital scams targeting life savings and elderly people said Labour Social Protection spokesperson Seán Sherlock as reports in the Irish Examiner today highlighted the increase in this fraudulent activity and lack of a structured response from the State to ensure savings can be recovered and new frauds stopped.

Deputy Sherlock said:

“The huge increase in investment fraud last year, coupled with the rise in digital scams targeting people through texts, calls and email shows the need for a comprehensive government response to mark Fraud Awareness Week. We need new measures to ensure money can be recovered, and constantly evolving scams through text and phone networks quickly stopped. It is no longer acceptable to receive a shrug of the shoulders from the banking sector.

“People feel powerless, and often embarrassed at being caught in scams like this, but it highlights the sophisticated way these frauds are being carried out. The increase in phishing exercises can target anyone using realistic digital impersonations of banks and other financial institutions, and it shows how quickly technology allows the scams to change. While elderly people are particularly vulnerable, this can and does happen to everyone through the use of aggressive tactics, and very persuasive fake portals and websites.

“This is not just a matter for the Gardaí and Minister for Justice. It cuts across the Department of Finance and the Department of Communications. Criminals are exploiting the phone text network in many cases, and I have previously called on the Minister for Communications to act to ensure that Irish network operators tackle this fraud and that unsuspecting members of the public are not penalised when there was a major increase in fraudulent calls from abroad.

“People can receive texts out of the blue that can lead them to believe their bank details or other financial information has been compromised and that they need to act, or be tricked into processing a payment and then providing all their personal and bank details. It is vital that everyone does a regular security upgrade of their phone on a regular basis. The tactics used are constantly evolving and being developed through trial and error and it is practically impossible for an ordinary person to keep up with these manipulative techniques.

“As reported in the Irish Examiner today tens of millions is being lost through investment scams, and very little of the money is ever recovered. It’s clear we need to look at how this is happening, and what measures or controls can be put in place to ensure stolen money can be recovered.

“These crimes are devastating for people who can potentially lose their life savings and destroy their retirement security. I welcome that the Gardaí are raising awareness of these crimes, but we also need a stronger response from the State to put in place protections for people.”

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