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Keeping people safe from scams

The Church of Ireland, alongside other organisations, 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 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.

Advice to help prevent:

Holiday scams

Impersonation scams

Energy company scams

How your parish can help:

Opportunities to communicate

Garda resources

Scamwise NI resources


Holiday scams

With international travel now being easier, people are planning holidays again which they maybe haven’t done during the previous few years. Unfortunately, fraudsters are using this to take advantage and seeking to scam you. Here’s what to be mindful of when booking a holiday:

  • False advertising. Adverts could be an entirely fraudulent website or an advert posted on a genuine website. Don’t be deceived by images, these can easily be obtained from anywhere on the internet.
  • Payment methods. Criminals will often encourage payment/booking away from the site and can offer discount for doing this. Often encouraging bank transfer; be wary if you are asked to do this. This makes it harder to recover your money than if third part payment services were used e.g. Paypal.
  • Confirmation emails. Fraudsters send confirmation emails to convince you that you’re booking and payment have been made/received, it is important to be sure this is legitimate.

There are methods to protect yourself when it comes to holiday scams.  Here’s how you can do this:

  • Use a credit card. Where possible, pay using a credit card as it can provide you with additional financial protection.
  • Check for insurance. Ensure you’re booking is covered by an official association of travel agents and a government protection scheme for travellers (e.g. ABTA/ATOL). Fraudsters can copy these logos to add credibility to their fraudulent adverts. Look out for a membership number and contact the scheme to confirm whether the company you are using is a member.
  • Research. Before booking, research the hotel/property. Check if it is advertised elsewhere, if it has a website. Be cautious and mindful if there’s a significant difference in price – if there is, it is likely a scam.
  • Remember: If possible, pay by credit card. Be suspicious of a discount offered for paying by bank transfer or off–site. Think – Can I trust the advert? How do I know the booking exists?

Impersonation scams

Fraudsters will make contact with you claiming to be from your bank in an attempt to scam you. Here’s a few examples of how to protect yourself:

  • Protect your password and personal details while banking online. This will stop criminals from being able to access your accounts.
  • Many banks provide one time passcodes sent to your device when setting up new payments. Never share this with anybody. If speaking to your bank on the phone and they ask for this, it is a criminal on the other end and not your bank.
  • Never share your security codes with anyone.
  • If your bank has called you, take a reference number and hang up. Recall on a number you know to be safe after a few minutes to clear the line.

Energy company scams

This is something to be mindful of with the cost of living increasing. People could search around suppliers in an attempt to get a better deal. However, there is every chance that fraudsters will use this to target you and take advantage of your search for the best deal.

One of the best tools for tackling any scam 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
Money requested


How your parish can help

Opportunities to communicate

Your parish can help to prevent and report scams by sharing the following information as you think appropriate with your members and their neighbours.  For example:

informing clergy, staff and volunteers about scams and how to identify them.

printed leaflets which can be shared on church premises or in pastoral visits;

videos on your social media channels;

church announcements before, during and/or after a service;

Resources are available below for each part of the island of Ireland.


An Garda Síochána

The following resources will be helpful for parishes in the State:

– an online Q&A with guidance on preventing and tackling fraud (from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau);

– a listing of local crime prevention officers who will be able to assist with this and other policing matters;

– a guide to fraud prevention (PDF – jointly published with the Irish Payment Services Organisation, the Irish Banking Federation and the Police Service of Northern Ireland) also available by clicking on the front cover below.

An Garda Síochána has provided the graphic below which may be used on posters, websites and social media platforms, to highlight invoice redirection fraud.

Scamwise NI

If you live in Northern Ireland, 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):

a PowerPoint slide (e.g. for use as part of church announcements or a presentation);

– a one–page leaflet for printing (PDF);

– a two–page leaflet for printing (PDF) with ‘nevers’ (advice on information that will never be sought by a range of organisations which scammers will claim to represent).

The front cover of the leaflet is as follows:

All of these resources show the scam test. More information is available on the Scamwise NI website and Facebook feed.

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.  Just click here or on the front cover below to download and read it.

Through its Scam? Ask Us initiative, the Post Office 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.

The following videos highlight some frequently reported scams which your Post Office counter staff can help you to identify and avoid:

Mail fraud
is also a major form of scamming – Raymond tells the story of how his mother, Audrey, was scammed repeatedly in this video (available in longer and shorter versions):

Remember: If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.

The Church of Ireland, Roman Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, and the Irish Council of Churches are supporting Scamwise NI and scam prevention initiatives by An Garda Síochána through the Church Leaders Group.

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