The Irish public has been urged to remain vigilant in recent months over the growing number of scams that attempt to separate people from their hard-earned money.
Gardai and the Department of Social Protection have warned people not to give out sensitive personal and banking information over the phone.
There has been a recent wave of calls from scammers pretending to be government or state agencies, who can often trick people into handing over passwords or money.
The most common are the fraudulent 083, 085 and 087 calls, with people being asked to ignore and block these numbers.
There has also been an increase in fake text messages from delivery companies, as well as emails urging people to follow links to seemingly official websites.
The reason so many scams are circulating now is because fraudsters are taking advantage of isolating people during the pandemic.
That’s according to security expert Dr Thomas Newe, a lecturer at the University of Limerick and a member of the Cyber Ireland board.
Dr Newe says this is due not only to the fact that individuals meet less of other people, but also to employees working from home who may be more likely to click on a questionable link.
Scammers obviously achieve a “reasonable success rate” otherwise they wouldn’t be so common, he told the Irish Mirror.
Dr Newe said: “People are at home, they are isolated, they don’t really know what to do, so they just click.
“I think the benefits of being inside a business are that you can call someone up and ask, ‘Are you okay? “, but here we go.
“Cell phones, they are becoming more and more prevalent, especially during Covid because if a hacker has access to your cell phone, they invariably have access to your email which gives them access to your work systems and everything the rest.”
He thinks there is a lack of information on which links people should and shouldn’t follow, but according to him, “the rule of thumb is to click nothing.”
It comes as the Bank of Ireland has issued a new warning to customers to be “extremely vigilant” of fraudsters trying to gain access to their financial information.
“The banks of the Bank of Ireland seem to be the most popular because it is the biggest bank,” Dr Newe said.
“They are looking for your account details and login information and if you click on the links they provide you will likely come to a website that looks a lot like your bank’s website and they will just collect that information from the details they type in. and they use it to access your bank account. “
While in most cases damage is done after people enter their personal information on a seemingly legitimate website, in some cases hackers can break into your phone just by clicking on the questionable link.
Dr Newe added: “Some of the links will install software on your phone, they will install a Trojan which is basically a shadowing app to watch everything on your phone.
“When you are in a quiet time, like at night, it will report to a master device which will give them all the details you entered on your phone and who you contacted, basically whatever you did on your phone. “
Meanwhile, some people also report receiving phone calls from numbers which when called back are real numbers belonging to innocent people.
This not only means that the crooks take money from people, but also steal their phone numbers to use them for malicious purposes.
Dr Newe said this pattern is very similar to what has been happening on computers for years, namely that your IP address is “spoofed”.
He said: “They can trick the system into believing the phone call is from another number.
“Looks like it came from a different cell phone than the one it actually came from.
“These are automated services and they usually tell you to call a number or click on a link to enter your contact information for welfare or whatever.”
His advice to the public is that a government or public body will never send them a message telling them to “click here”.
Instead, they should go to the service’s official website and enter their information from there to see if anything is wrong with their account.