Fraud figures rise due to surge in phone scams

Fraud almost doubled in the first quarter of the year, due to an increase in phone scams, according to CSO figures.

Over 17,000 fraud incidents were recorded in the first three months of 2022, up 88% from the same period a year earlier, when only 9,200 cases were recorded.

According to the statistics office, the increase is largely due to unauthorized transactions and attempts to obtain personal or banking information online or over the phone. The figures were revealed just days after Gardaí discovered a “smishing factory” during an operation in Dublin’s Tallaght district.

Fraud almost doubled in the first quarter of the year, due to an increase in phone scams, according to CSO figures. Photo: Shutterstock

In a smishing scam, an account holder receives a text message, allegedly from their bank. Attached to the message is a link that takes the victim to a cloned website.

The person is then prompted to enter their PIN, which allows fraudsters to take control of their account and transfer money to a mule account.

Up to €40,000 in cash was seized along with ten mobile devices during the raid which were found to have sent around 10,000 smishing messages in one day. A seized laptop also revealed that it controlled a number of fake websites linked to the SMS scam.

the computer
Over 17,000 fraud incidents were recorded in the first three months of 2022, up 88% from the same period a year earlier, when only 9,200 cases were recorded. Photo: Shutterstock

In March, gardaí reported a 370% increase in fraud-related crimes in just 12 months.

The latest statistics reveal that more and more people are falling victim to scammers as their methods of deception become more sophisticated every year.

Gardaí says members of the public should be wary of unsolicited phone calls (vishing), emails (phishing) and text messages (smishing) and not click on any links sent to them.

The most common frauds claim to be from a bank or other financial institution.

In a smishing scam, an account holder receives a text message, allegedly from their bank. Attached to the message is a link that takes the victim to a cloned website. Photo: Shutterstock

Other data, such as an address, date of birth and PPS numbers may be requested as part of scams aimed at stealing personal or financial information.

Meanwhile, most other crimes also increased over the same three-month period, particularly kidnapping and related offenses – up 38%. Offenses against the government, legal proceedings and the organization of crime also increased by 24%.

Assaults and sexual offenses increased by 19% and 13% respectively, while homicides and drug-related crimes decreased by 38% and 26%.

The CSO also reported that only 85 offenses were recorded in the Garda Pulse database for violations of COVID-19 restrictions from January to March 2022.

In March, gardaí reported a 370% increase in fraud-related crimes in just 12 months. Photo: Shutterstock

Jim Dalton, CSO Statistician, said: “Recorded crime statistics for the year ending March 2022 showed that the number of fraud incidents recorded in An Garda Síochána’s PULSE database has almost doubled over the period. The increase is largely due to unauthorized transactions and attempts to obtain personal or banking information online or over the phone.

The CSO also noted that the thousands of 999 canceled calls over the past few years may have impacted its Garda PULSE stats.

Mr Dalton added: “An internal investigation by AGS into the inappropriate cancellation of calls on its CAD [Computer Aided Dispatch] system continues.

“Premature or inappropriate cancellation of incidents on the CAD system may mean that records relating to crimes, which have been reported to [gardaí]were not created on the PULSE system and are therefore not included in recorded crime statistics.

He said that An Garda Síochána conducted an interim investigation focusing only on the most serious high-risk crimes.

Mr Dalton added: ‘These were mainly related to domestic violence, sexual assault, health and missing persons, which covered the cancellation of around 6,000 incidents dating back to 2019.’

He explained that an incident can be validly canceled, for example, if several calls arrive for the same incident.

He said that of the incidents that should not have been canceled, 143 would have resulted in a criminal incident being recorded on Pulse.

The statistician added: “In terms of volume, this has a very small effect on the published crime statistics for the 21 month period in question.

“The CSO is awaiting the final outcome of AGS investigations into the matter before it can fully determine the impact on recorded crime statistics.”

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