Consumers are being warned of a rise in convincing investment scams that are targeting those over-55.
That's according to FraudSMART, an initiative led by Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI).
Brochures, using the names and branding of well-recognised and legitimate bonds and investment schemes, are being circulated by fraudsters and advertised online.
The fraudsters hide behind websites - including product comparison websites - which appear to be legitimate and also make contact through cold calling, unsolicited e-mails, social media and text messages.
Indications suggest the scams are particularly targeted at those in the over-55 age bracket, with a minimum investment of €20,000, and in many cases more than that.
Some red flags to look out for include receiving an unexpected contact about an investment opportunity, being rushed to make a decision, and the promise of a quick and profitable return.
Checklist to help avoid investment scams:
- Stop and think: Does this opportunity sound too good to be true? If so, it probably is
- Take your time: Important to note that there are very few legitimate investment opportunities that require you to hand over or transfer money immediately
- Research thoroughly: Check the individual and firm for qualifications, credentials, reputation and history. The Central Bank Consumer Hub is a good place to start
- Verify the Information: Check all information with a trusted third party such as a legal/financial professional and consult family and close friends
Niamh Davenport is Head of Financial Crime with BPFI.
"While the amounts may seem high it's important to point out that the victims are not necessarily wealthy customers, but often people on low to average incomes who have worked hard all their lives to build up a pension - and are at a stage where they are looking for a last opportunity to top up their finances," she said.
"In one reported incident an older customer was about to invest €60,000 from their pension into what appeared to be a legitimate scheme.
"Fortunately, the customer made a call directly to their bank before pushing the payment through and this meant that the fraud was identified and averted".
'Any of us can fall victim'
Ms Davenport said these scams can be hard to spot.
"I think we would all like to believe that we would recognise a scam if we saw it, but the truth is any of us can fall victim to fraudsters if we’re not on the alert.
"It is really important for consumers, particularly those coming close to or at retirement age who are a key target group right now, to be aware that the scams offer very convincing investment opportunities and once the money is 'invested' it disappears with no redress once the money is handed over to an unregulated 'firm'.
"The rule of thumb is: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is," she added.