Sinn Féin spokesperson on Communications, Darren O’Rourke TD, has raised the growing problem of scam phone calls, highlighting this as a hidden problem as few people want to admit they have been defrauded by these criminals.
Speaking in the Dáil this morning, the Meath East TD said:
“The scourge of scam phone calls and text messages has become widespread in recent weeks.
“Fraudsters claiming to be from state agencies, An Garda Síochána or the Department of Social Protection, are pestering people with calls seeking personal and sensitive details such as PPS numbers and bank details.
“While most people identify these calls as fraudulent and do not engage with them, the convincing nature of some of the newer scams is leading to people losing money here.
“For example, one new development is the appearance of Irish phone numbers on incoming calls or texts.
“While most people would be suspicious of an unsolicited call that shows up as coming from a random foreign jurisdiction of which they have no connection to, when it appears as Irish number it does give the call more credibility unfortunately.
“I fear this is a hidden problem, as very few people want to admit they have been conned, so just because we don’t hear about people losing thousands each day, does not mean it’s not happening.
“I have now heard of people in my own constituency who have had money stolen from them through these scams, so I’ve no doubt it’s a widespread issue.
“Research from the United States show 59 million people fell victim to these scams in the last year alone, with the average loss standing at about $500.
“This morning I called on the Minister to carry our similar research here, as it’s vital we gather data on this so we can allocate the appropriate resources to tackle it.
“Policing cybercrime is extremely challenging, but we can’t sit by and let this issue escalate.
“Not only will it result in people losing money and compromising their sensitive personal information, it will also destroy trust in legitimate online transactions and institutions here.
“This week I’ve contacted the major mobile phone operators to ask what they can do to clamp down on the appearance of Irish numbers on these calls, but wider government action is needed.
“I told the Minister we need a multi-agency coordinated response, comprising the Gardaí, the National Cyber Security Centre, Comreg and mobile phone operators to tackle this problem.
“In the meantime, I believe a wider public information campaign on this would be beneficial, as it could tell people what to watch out for and try to prevent more people losing money.”