Cifas weekly Covid-19 scam update

Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, is highlighting the latest coronavirus scams from the past week, and warning the public to stay vigilant of the ever-changing tactics that scammers are using to extract money and information.

Scams notified to Cifas include the use of false FOI requests for business grant applications and fraudsters targeting families organising funerals for loved ones by contacting them and purporting to be from their local authority’s bereavement services team and asking them for credit card details to pay their funeral director.

Amber Burridge, Head of Fraud Intelligence for Cifas, said: ‘Each week we see fraudsters adopting new ways to steal money and information from innocent members of the public. Remember that criminals are preying on people’s fear and anxieties around the pandemic, so never be rushed or pressured into giving anyone your bank or personal details – even if the request appears to be legitimate.

Equifax Cyber Incident


Equifax have posted a statement on their UK website confirming that around 400,000 UK citizens have been affected by the recent cybersecurity hack.

The security breach is limited to name, date of birth, email addresses and telephone numbers and does not include addresses, passwords or financial information.

Equifax  statement.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has warned that the main risk to those affected is the possibility of receiving more targeted phishing emails. The stolen data can be used to make false email messages look very authentic as fraudsters can use your real name and  your telephone number to look like authentic emails.

These phishing emails can come from any source unrelated to Equifax and can look very realistic and can be used to trick unwary recipients into clicking on malicious links or even replying to these fraudsters.

With the stolen telephone numbers there is the opportunity for scammers to attempt to target unsuspecting users with scam phone calls.

The Advice

NEVER share passwords or bank details with anyone on the phone or by email and NEVER click on a link or attachment unless you are absolutely assured that the link is authentic.

If you’re not sure don’t click on it!

The Bank of England’s chief cashier, Victoria Cleland – does not use contactless payment cards.

Larry Elliott Guardian Economics editor

‘I don’t use contactless’: the woman whose name is on British banknotes

Victoria Cleland – Bank of England’s Chief Cashier

It is perhaps not entirely surprising to learn that the woman whose signature adorns Bank of England banknotes is a big fan of cash. She does not use contactless payment cards for personal spending – not least because she is yet to trust the technology completely.

Continue reading “The Bank of England’s chief cashier, Victoria Cleland – does not use contactless payment cards.”

Dynamic Currency Conversion – Benefit or Rip Off?

Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) allows you to pay in either your own or the local currency when using an ATM or credit card terminal when abroad.

There are extra costs associated with both options.

UK banks charge fees of up to 3% for most foreign transactions, such as using your debit card to take out cash from cash machines or buy things while you’re abroad

For Irish banks the fees and charges are quite similar.

Using Dynamic Currency Conversion DCC and choosing to pay in your own currency gives you an immediate conversion rate but includes extra fees which are split three ways between the card issuer – your bank, the merchant – the restaurant or store  and the DCC provider.

Every time you press the button “Pay in Your Own Currency” you are inadvertently ripping yourself off.

Most people will choose this option though, as it is counter-intuitive to pay in a foreign currency given the logic that another conversion fee might seem likely.

Large merchants like hotel groups and airlines who take online payments get a cut of the higher customer charges and it is sometimes difficult to locate where you can pay in the local currency to avoid DCC charges.

Pay in the Local Currency

If you choose the option to pay in the local currency you will still be charged exchange fees and this will show on your statement. However the fees will be a lot lower than using DCC.

The UK Cards Association offers the following advice:-

“A retailer or ATM may give you the choice of paying in your
home currency or the local currency. If you pay in your home
currency, make sure the exchange rate is competitive. If you
are in any doubt, pay the bill in the local currency as it will
generally be cheaper.

The Irish Competition and Consumer Protection Commission advises those travelling outside the euro zone that “it is usually more cost effective to pay in the local currency“.

Bottom line

Dynamic Currency Conversion DCC may not be in the same category as other travel scams, but it can be an easy way for you to spend more money than you should when you travel outside your own currency area.

Knowledge is half the battle and I hope this post has given you some ideas on how to avoid being overcharged on your next trip abroad.

Ireland’s National Police Service – ‘Identity Theft’ Fraud

Paragraph There has been a rise in “card not present” transactions resulting from compromised card details and Identity Theft. One victim was a national sports retailer who was targeted 172 times over 2 weeks in March.

Gardaí from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau have teamed up with the retail industry in a bid to combat the growing problem of ‘Card Not Present’ (CNP) and Identity Theft fraud.

The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) and Retail Excellence have joined forces to help prevent a recent spike in Identity Theft and CNP fraud, which occurs when a payment card is not physically presented during a phone or online transaction.

Retailers are being targeted by CNP fraud but consumers are also vulnerable because most CNP fraud involves the use of payment card details that have been compromised and obtained through skimming, hacking, email phishing, telephone solicitations or other unlawful methods. The compromised payment card details are then used to facilitate fraudulent transactions.

In 2015, card fraud was €29.6 million in Ireland.  70% of this fraud (almost €21million) occurred in a card not present environment, i.e. online purchases, telephone purchases etc. In the first half of 2016 there was €20.8million card fraud in Ireland, 78% of which was due to compromises in a card not present environment.

The Garda Síochána-Retail Excellence collaboration takes place as part of a broader Europol campaign this month aimed at combating online fraud and Identity Theft that arises from compromised card data. Europol E-Commerce Action Week took place from June 6 to 16th and saw officers in 23 countries deployed to ‘hotspots’ and take action based on intelligence and investigations.

As part of the Europol effort, officers from the GNECB targeted a number of residences in the Dublin area suspected to be facilitating CNP fraud. As a result of the operation:

•         10 search warrants were applied for on foot of information provided by the Gardaí’s private sector partners;

•         Six searches of residential properties were carried out in Tallaght, Drimnagh, Tyrellstown and Balbriggan by GNECB;

•         1 person arrested and detained at Balbriggan Garda Station under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994;

•         Details of over 100 compromised US issued payment cards were recovered.
One recent target of CNP fraud was a major national sports retailer. Over a two-week period in March, there were 172 successful and attempted purchases from their online store using compromised payment cards from the US. If all 172 attempts were successful, the retailer would have lost out on approximately €16,000 in revenue.  A smaller retailer in the west of Ireland was also targeted in recent months.

Speaking today, Detective Garda Jim O’Meara of the GNECB, said: “We are definitely witnessing a sharp rise in the level of CNP fraud activity in the past 18 months and we would attribute it to the uplift in the economy and a related rise in online shopping. This results in greater numbers of consumers being vulnerable to having their payment card details compromised, which are then sold on the darkweb where they can be accessed by criminals who go on to fraud retailers either online, over the phone, or even through mail order transactions.

“Officers from the Economic Crime Bureau recently acted on a number of leads in this area in line with our counterparts across Europe. We were pleased with the results and investigations are continuing.

“Our advice to Irish consumers to help prevent their cards being compromised is to always buy from trusted sources, use credit cards when purchasing things online, never send money upfront to an online seller, and never send your card number PIN or other information to anyone by email.”

Retail Excellence spokesperson Lorraine Higgins said “We are delighted to get behind this initiative to help combat the very new crime of online fraud. Our retailers want to ensure consumers can shop online safe in the knowledge their personal and financial details are safe which is exactly why we, as Ireland largest retail representative body, are supporting this initiative.

With the significant growth in online sales this year whereby €850,000 is being spent every hour by Irish consumers it was clear that ancillary issues would eventually arise. Our internal Loss Prevention Group chaired by Harvey Norman’s Michael Neary had flagged this as an issue and took proactive steps which ultimately led to the collaboration between Retail Excellence and the Gardai. Therefore, c onsumers can be assured that our member retailers are working hard to ensure their security when purchasing goods and services from them”.

“We would advise that retailers be vigilant and if you suspect something is not as it seems then do not hesitate to contact An Garda Siochana.”

Online Shopping & Fraud Statistics (Source: Banking & Payments Federation of Ireland)

In 2016, €41 billion was spent on debit and credit cards issued in Ireland.  A total of €13.2 billion (32%) of this total was spent online.

In 2015, card fraud was €29.6 million in Ireland.  70% of this fraud (almost €21million) occurred in a card not present environment, i.e. online purchases, telephone purchases etc.

In the first half of 2016 there was €20.8million overall card fraud in Ireland, 78% of which was due to compromises in a card not present environment.

Latest full year figures available for card fraud are 2015.

Europol’s Golden Rules for Safe Online Shopping

Buy from trusted sources. Use brands and shops that you are familiar with or have used before and check the ratings of individual sellers on sites such as Amazon and eBay.

Control the recurring charges. Before providing your car details to pay for a continuous service over the internet, find out how you can stop that service.
Many e-merchant sites will ask to store your payment details. Think twice before deciding and make sure you understand the risks this might imply.

Use credit cards when purchasing things online. Most credit cards have a strong customer protection policy. If you don’t get what you ordered the card issuer will refund you.

Make sure the data transfer is appropriately protected. Look for the padlock symbol on the URL bar and use HTTPS and SSL protocols when browsing over internet.
Always save all documents related to your online purchases. They may be needed to establish the terms and conditions of the sale to prove that you have paid for the goods.

If you are not buying a specific product or service, don’t submit your card details. beware of identity theft.

When purchasing something online from another person, don’t send money upfront to the seller. If possible, reserve the right to receive the goods first.
Don’t send money to anyone you don’t know. If someone approaches you online and asks for money, think whether you would give the same amount to an unknown person on the street. be aware of identity theft.

Never send your card number, PIN or any other card information to anyone by email.

Avoid doing your online shopping at sites that don’t use full authentication (verified by Visa/Mastercard/Secure Code).

Never send your card details in an unencrypted email. Some online shops outside of Europe may request a copy of your card and passport by fax as a guarantee.