PSNI receives 5,600 reports of scams in 2022

Since the start of the year, 5,600 reports of scams or attempted scams have been made to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Dec 30, 2022
By Paul Jacques
Chief Superintendent Gerard Pollock

The estimated total lost to scams each year in Northern Ireland is around £19 million, according to the chair of ScamwiseNI Partnership, Chief Superintendent Gerard Pollock. He said the staggering statistics show just how ruthless scammers are.

Chief Supt Pollock said: “We should never lose sight of the fact that behind every loss, no matter what it has been, is a person or a business owner who has been taken advantage of in the most despicable and callous way. In some cases, the impact of the scam has life-long consequences.”

He said the biggest reported loss this year was a person who lost £350,000 as a result of a cryptocurrency investment scam.

These may seem like a good way to boost savings, however, they are often high-risk investments with limited regulation or safeguards, said Chief Supt Pollock

In terms of the types of scams, Chief Supt Pollock said most frauds and scams are committed at distance, with criminals exploiting communication networks through phones, social media, emails or text messages. These can include impersonation scams, where people are contacted online through WhatsApp, via text or online on Facebook, investment and romance scams and, more recently, cost of living scams.

Chief Supt Pollock believes there is rising awareness of frauds among the public and that is driving increased reporting, with around 60 per cent of the reports he PSNI receives not involving any financial loss.

“I see how some people are more willing to report frauds and scams to the police service, but we do still see evidence of under-reporting in particular in those aged 19-39 years old,” he said.

From 2011/12, there has been a significant increase in the amount of fraud reported, from around 1,400 offences being reported to the PSNI in 2011/12 up to around 5,300 in the last financial year, 2021/22. For some who lose money to scammers, the loss can be tens of thousands and, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Chief Supt Pollock said: “Due to the advances in technology, criminals can find their way into someone’s home, and access their banking and personal date without physically having to go to someone’s door.

“It’s important to remember anyone can be targeted by a scam and criminals will constantly change how they present their scam to lure people in, but the core is the same – they’re trying to get personal and financial details.

“In recent months, we’ve also seen fake offers of refunds on utility bills, energy tariff discounts, energy rebates, tax rebates and cost of living payments all used by criminals.

“All of these scams are an attempt to get personal details, such as name, address, date of birth and who you bank with for your loss and their gain. This can then be used to commit a more sophisticated scam where the losses can be substantial.”

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