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Keeping people safe from scams

The Church of Ireland is backing the Scamwise NI campaign to keep people safe from scams. In any year, most of us will be targeted with an attempt to scam us out of money but if you can spot a scam, you can stop it too.

The following resources, including advice from 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.

Coronavirus scams

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.  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.

While there is no public campaign on this issue in the Republic at present, An Garda Síochána has provided a listing of local crime prevention officers who will be able to assist with this and other policing matters.  The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau also provides guidance on preventing and tackling fraud.

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 trueContacted out of the blueAsked for personal detailsMoney requested

Getting help from your post office

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.

Four videos from the Post Office outline some regular scenarios in which people may find themselves as targets of scams and how people can get help from staff.

Resources for parishes

Please click on the links in bold below to download 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;

– a listing image and a larger online graphic which can be used on church websites or social media.

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

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.

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.