How to avoid scams
What is a scam?
A scam is an illegal or dishonest scheme that involves theft or fraud. Scams target people of all ages and backgrounds. They come in many forms including an email, a text message, a letter, a website or a phone call.
Whatever the method, a scam is about tricking you into parting with your money. They are becoming more and more sophisticated and difficult to spot.
Scams can be very convincing but this page helps you recognise a scam and protect yourself against them.
A number of Government agencies are warning people to stay alert due to an increase in scams. Keep an eye on the Garda website for up to date warnings. The Department of Social Protection (DSP) has an alerts page for scam phone calls and scam text messages.
Common types of scams
You are asked to pay a deposit by bank transfer to secure a house or apartment from a fake accommodation site.
Antivirus software scams
You get an email or phone call from a company that says your computer has a virus and they can repair it by installing software, but they take over your computer. The software allows them to access your personal information, or they insist you pay them before they return the controls of your computer or files back to you.
Someone asks you to donate to a fake charity or pretends to be from a real charity.
Scammers posing as legitimate sellers on classified websites trick you into payment for fake goods or services.
Websites offering services from Government departments or local government but are not official sites, promise to make a process faster or easier for an excessive price.
Someone knocks on your door and offers you a product or service, convincing you to pay cash up-front for a service that is never provided.
Fake ticket scams
Fraudsters using the secondary ticket market sell you fake tickets or tickets that don’t exist.
Free trial scams
An advert promoting a product or service invites you to try it out for free or for a very low cost. When you sign up, you may be signing a membership or subscription service that locks you into costly repeat payments.
Holiday rental scams
Fake websites and emails offer you holidays or villas that do not exist. They require you to pay money directly into the fraudsters account.
You or your business are tricked into investing in a questionable financial opportunity, promising a high return or guaranteed profit. Examples are investment in forestry, biofuels or exotic overseas properties.
Loan and credit scams
A company ‘guarantees’ you a loan in return for an upfront fee.
Malware or ransomware
Software is installed by scammers on your device, allowing them to access your files, track what you are doing or demand payment to ‘unlock’ your computer or files.
Mobile phone scams
For example, a 'missed calls' scam, where a scammer calls your phone and hangs up quickly. If you call the number back and it’s a scam, you could pay premium rates for the call without knowing.
A bogus email, for example pretending to be from your bank, tries to trick you into sharing your personal and financial information.
Prize and lottery scams
You are asked to pay some sort of fee to claim your prize or winnings from a competition or lottery you never entered.
Romance and relationship scams
Fraudsters using dating sites, apps or social media request money, gifts or your personal details.
Scammers send you a threatening email claiming your computer and webcam have been hacked and you have been recorded watching pornographic videos. They demand payment for the footage not to be released.
Smishing is a combination of the words “SMS” and “phishing”. It is a scam where fraudsters use mobile phone text messages to trick you into opening a malicious attachment or link. Read more about smishing and how to avoid it in the Central Bank’s explainer.
Social media scams
Fraudsters use social media for scams, including quizzes phishing for your personal details. Scammers can also pose as friends asking for money, or display ads for ‘free’ vouchers and products or services claiming a celebrity endorsement.
How do I know if it's a scam?
Some scams are quite obvious, while others are more elaborate and difficult to recognise. Knowing what to look for and how to avoid scams is the best way to stay safe. Look out for the following signs of a scam:
- Unsolicited contact from a company out of the blue
- A deal that seems too good to be true
- You are asked to share personal details
- You are being pressurised to respond quickly or transfer money quickly
- You have been asked to pay by unusual method, for example through a transfer service like Western Union or virtual currency like Bitcoin
- Contact details are vague
- Misspellings or grammatical mistakes
- You are asked to keep the offer quiet
How can I protect myself?
There are many ways to protect yourself from scams. For example, always:
- Know who you are dealing with
- Be alert for suspicious behaviour
- Protect your personal information
- Protect your money
Know who you are dealing with
Research the company who has contacted you to make sure it’s a legitimate business. Check:
- Terms and conditions, so you know exactly what you are agreeing to
- Contact details such as phone number, email, and physical address. Beware of websites that only have a contact form and no other contact information
- Online reviews, to find out about other people’s experiences. Do not just use one source of reviews as these could be fake. Check reviews on social media channels or independent online resources like Trustpilot
- If a charity is registered with the Charities Regulator
Be alert for suspicious behaviour
Listen to your instinct and if something feels wrong, then it is usually right to question it. Always ask yourself ‘is it safe?’ and take the following precautions:
- Be careful of offers that seem too good to be true
- Do not click on or download anything you don’t trust. Check where a link is going before you click on it by hovering over it
- Do not let anyone remotely access your computer
- Check the website is secure by looking for a closed security padlock symbol in the browser window bar (where the website address is located). Click on it to check for an 'encryption certificate'. The website address should begin with ‘https://’ - the ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’
- Watch out for spelling or grammatical mistakes which are a sign of scam
- Be suspicious of any discount offered for paying by bank transfer
Protect your personal information
Your personal information is valuable to criminals and can be misused by them or sold on to others. Take these steps to protect yourself:
- Do not give out any personal information over the phone unless you made the call. If you are worried about giving credit or debit card details to a charity during an unsolicited call, call the charity back on their main office phone number
- Be careful of unsolicited phone calls, emails or texts saying they are your bank, particularly if they are asking for personal information such as date of birth or passwords
- Do not give out personal information in an email or when chatting online
- Think carefully about the personal information you post online
- If you get a request for personal details, do not respond straight away
- Never enter personal information on a public computer
Protect your money
Protect your money by taking these steps:
- Never send money by bank transfer unless you are absolutely certain you are sending it to someone you know and trust. Sending money by bank transfer is like sending someone cash and generally, once you send it, it’s gone
- Always use a secure method of payment such as a credit card, debit card or other payment services such as PayPal (that offer a payment protection scheme)
- Limit the number of places where you store your payment information online or use a secure digital wallet
- Keep online banking software and banking apps up to date and always download updates when you are prompted
- Check transactions on your bank statements regularly and report suspicious activity to your bank or credit card provider straight away
I think I have been scammed
If you think you have been victim of a scam, take the following steps:
- Stop all contact with the scammer straight away
- Do not send any more payments
- If you paid by credit or debit card, tell your bank or card provider immediately
- Report the incident to your local Garda station, as it is a criminal matter
- Gather any records you have about the scam (such as emails or other communications)
- Protect your devices by resetting your passwords and update your anti-virus software
- Report the incident to consumer protection agencies (see ‘More information’ below for contact details), for advice and to help prevent other people being caught in the same scam
Can I get my money back?
You might be able to get your money back after you’ve been scammed. It depends on what happened and how you paid the scammer.
Unauthorised transaction on your account
Money can only be taken from your account if you authorised (or allowed) the transaction. If you notice an unauthorised transaction on your account, contact your bank immediately.
In most circumstances, your bank must refund you for an unauthorised payment.
You bought something from a scammer with your debit card, credit card or PayPal
Ask your bank or credit card provider to reverse the transaction through a process known as 'chargeback'. Read more about chargeback on the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) website.
You transferred money to a scammer using bank transfer
If the money was sent by bank transfer, this makes it very difficult to trace. But, the faster you act the better.
You used a money transfer service
It is unlikely you will be able to get your money back if you paid through a wire service such as MoneyGram, PayPoint or Western Union.
If you paid by vouchers or gift card
It is unlikely you will get your money back if you used vouchers or gift cards to pay the scammer.
Read more about online safety.
Get advice and information on scam calls and scam texts from the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).
The Banking and Payment’s Federation Ireland’s (BPFI) FraudSMART initiative has some useful resources on protecting yourself from fraud.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has more information about how to watch out for scams.