Online identity theft in Ireland, and indeed across Europe, is on the rise. There has been a marked increase in scams by criminals intent on tricking respondents into parting with personal and banking details. These include false job ads and fake websites offering goods at knock down prices.
Over 64% of the Irish population use the internet daily to make transactions that require key personal information, exposing them to cyber criminals.
Hotline.ie has asked the Irish public to be more vigilant about identity fraud when making online transactions. Hotline.ie provides an anonymous facility for the public to report suspected illegal content encountered on the web.
“The scams and malware they’re using are becoming increasingly more convincing and sophisticated. It can literally take years before you realise your identity has been stolen and on average up to three months to resolve the situation. The public needs to learn the tell-tale signs of possible scams and take counter measures,” says Paul Durrant, manager, Hotline.ie.
The Irish journalist Louise Williams is an example of how this type of crime can snowball into a serious situation. In January 2011 she was arrested in Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam for internet fraud. Criminals had been using her identity to launder large sums of money, opening accounts in her name from as far back as 2005.
Tell tale signs
1. Ignore emails asking for bank or personal details in order to apply for a job. Rarely are people employed based solely on online interaction and no legitimate company would send out random unsolicited emails to recruit staff. If you are “hired” as part of these scam jobs you will likely be asked to transfer money to other accounts. You have been tricked into a money laundering operation and if the police catch up with you, you could be prosecuted. Legitimate companies do not need to use your bank account; they will have their own.
2. When buying goods online, always remember that if an offer is too good to be true, it probably is. Online consumers should compare prices across a number of sites offering the same goods. If you click through to site from an email offer make sure it really is the company it is supposed to be from. Never give full contact details, phone numbers, etc. without checking the website against an external source like the phone directory (directories for other countries are online). It’s important to search the company online and check whether there are any warnings about scams on forums.
An illegal digital growth industry
According to the European Commission, more than one million people are victims of cybercrime around the world each day.
Credit card details are being sold between organised crime groups for as little as €1 per card and bank credentials for as little as €60, the cost of which reaches $388bn worldwide.
With a recent survey by Eurobarometer revealing that Irish social media users are more likely to volunteer personal information online than other EU country, it is likely that identity theft will continue to increase in 2012, says Durrant.