The Church of Ireland is backing efforts to keep people safe from scams. In any year, most of us will be targeted with an attempt to scam us out of money – on the doorstep, on the phone, in the post, or over the internet – but if you can spot a scam, you can stop it too.
The following resources from the Scamwise NI campaign and An Garda Síochána, seek to help parishes to equip parishioners and their family, friends and neighbours so that they can prevent scams and seek assistance if they become a victim of a scam.
Scammers will continue to target vulnerable people during emergency situations. Police have warned that cold callers and others are taking advantage of the Covid–19 pandemic and are advising householders to be cautious when considering offers of help or any unexpected calls or other messages.
Common coronavirus scams are highlighted here by Scamwise NI, including advice on how to protect yourself and what to do if you think you have been scammed.
An Garda Síochána has warned of three types of scams through which criminals are using the pandemic to exploit others:
1. Phishing / Smishing / Vishing – a company or person receives an unsolicited email, text, WhatsApp message or telephone call claiming to be from a legitimate organisation;
2. Social engineering scams – criminals exploit the charitable nature of people via social media or in person asking for donations to so–called charitable causes;
3. Fraudulent selling and trading – of in–demand medical supplies or everyday household goods that may be in short supply.
A three–page leaflet with advice on tackling these scams is available here. Anyone who has been a victim of fraud or cyber–crime is encouraged to contact their local Garda station.
Scams cross borders
The Scamwise NI campaign relates to Northern Ireland but, as many scams cross borders, members of the Church who are living in the Republic and elsewhere may also find this advice helpful.
An Garda Síochána provides:
– an online Q&A with guidance on preventing and tackling fraud (from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau)
– a 12–page guide to fraud prevention (jointly published with the Irish Payment Services Organisation, the Irish Banking Federation and the Police Service of Northern Ireland)
– a listing of local crime prevention officers who will be able to assist with this and other policing matters
The scam test
One of the best tools for tackling scams is to remember the four–point ‘scam test’ which anyone can use if a cold caller gets in touch, or if they receive suspicious post or online messages:
Seems to be good to be true
Contacted out of the blue
Asked for personal details
Getting help from your post office (NI)
Through its Scam? Ask Us initiative, the Post Office, in Northern Ireland, is encouraging anybody to ask counter staff if they are concerned that they are falling victim to a scam. Staff can then advise them if they think that the request is unusual, or if it is a scam that they have come across before.
This playlist of videos outlines the risk of mail fraud, in which scammers repeatedly send requests for money to an individual, aiming to defraud them of their money.
Communications resources for parishes
Please click on the links in bold below to download Scamwise NI resources for displaying or sharing in your parish (e.g. with food parcels or at events for the community):
– PowerPoint slide (e.g. for use as part of church announcements or a presentation);
– one–page leaflet for printing (PDF);
– two–page leaflet for printing (PDF) – this includes advice on information that will neverbe sought by a range of organisations which scammers will claim to represent;
The Police Service of Northern Ireland has also published the Little Book of Big Scams which outlines many of the most frequently used types of scams.
An Garda Síochána has provided two graphics which may be used on websites and social media platforms, to highlight:
– CEO/CFO fraud (where the scammer impersonates an organisation’s Chief Executive or Chief Financial Officer)
Remember: If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.
The four main Churches and the Irish Council of Churches are supporting Scamwise NI through the Church Leaders Group.