Last week the central bank issued a warning in relation to a firm who had cloned the details of an authorised fund in Ireland and had used these details illegitimately.

The company basically copied all the details of a legitimate regulated entity and used those details to present themselves as an authorised entity. They were trying to sell investment funds.

Scams are not unusual however the cloning of details is a little more advanced.
We have previously seen situations where you get contacted by a “prince” who needs you to transfer money for him. Or emails telling you that you have won some lotto you never entered.

A little cop on can often highlight the fact that you are trying to be scammed but there are some other tell-tale signs.
For example often times there are spelling mistakes made on purpose in these emails. The reason for this is straight forward. These scams work on a numbers basis. They literally send the email to thousands of people, the scammers accept that to fall for this you need to be a little stupid/Gullible? and therefore put spelling mistakes in to weed out the more intellectual people.

Emails are one way for scammers to get at you but your guard is a little down when you talk to somebody who seems legit over the phone, particularly when they call you and have some personal details about you.

Don’t forget how much information is out there about you. For example a fairly common scam is for somebody to ring you offering to sell shares that you own on your behalf. They know your name, address and the fact that you own shares in a certain company, they must be legit, right? Remember all these details are a matter of public record on the share register for the company you own.

There are also the people who call you claiming to be from your work IT department, they then ask you to let them log into your machine by going to a web based service and they can then follow your actions in future and gleam details such as you logging into your online banking etc.

So how do you protect yourself from these people?

This is difficult particularly when the scams are becoming more and more sophisticated. How do you protect yourself from scams as sophisticated as companies cloning legitimate companies?

1. Be very wary of anybody who is looking for personal details early on in a conversation.

2. Don’t give too much info away to new callers.

3. Remember any regulated entity who contacts you should not be doing so cold. The consumer protection code states you should already have business with them and be in regular contact or they should only be calling to discuss things like life cover.

4. If you are considering engaging or particularly transferring money to a particular entity you should make sure you have at least verified them.

a. Get their name and details and check it on the central bank website, there is a register there that lists all regulated entities.
b. There is also a register of all firms the central bank has issued warnings on. (so far there have been 7 such firms listed this year)
c. Call them back on the landline listed on the central bank register.
d. Ideally go and visit their address. I would not be happy passing money to any firm that wouldn’t meet me face to face in their offices.

5. Ask for details of other people who have dealt with the firm and ask to get to speak to them. This isn’t foolproof but can be useful. Make sure you call them not the other way around.

6. If you have been scammed before you could be on a “sucker list”. These are lists sold between scammers and therefore you could be more prone to future attempts

7. Remember scammers are probably the best sales people in the world.

8. If you are scammed or think you might have been, contact your bank, the central bank and the Gardaí.

9. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.