Warning: Over 3,400 cases of fraud recorded in Northern Ireland in the first nine months of 2023
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Recent research has revealed that over 3,400 cases of fraud have been recorded in Northern Ireland in the first nine months of 2023, an increase of 6% compared to 2022.
The statistics were revealed at the annual Northern Ireland Fraud Forum Conference which took place in the Hilton Hotel, Belfast today (Wednesday).
The conference, to coincide with International Fraud Awareness Week, brought together private, public and third sector organisations to discuss the growing epidemic of online fraud and cyber-crime in Northern Ireland.
It comes as a joint report from the Global Anti-Scam Alliance and Cifas highlighted the need for future action to tackle the unprecedented levels of scams, with 10% of UK residents losing money to scams in the past 12 months.
Cifas has also recorded that more than half of scams in Northern Ireland are incidents of identity fraud, with most victims falling within the 61 plus age category and UK Finance, the collective voice of the banking and finance industry, reported earlier this year that around £2,300 was stolen for every minute of 2022.
Speakers at the conference which included representatives from the PSNI, OFCOM, Cifas, Companies House and Danske Bank, all warned against the prevalence of fraudulent activities ahead of Black Friday sales and the Christmas period, and cautioned against scams offering financial help, lucrative investment opportunities, employment scams and fake adverts.
Wayne Denner, an advocate for building awareness of fraud amongst young people, also briefed attendees on the current trends and emerging issues facing young people from organised crime gangs in Northern Ireland.
Speaking at the second annual Northern Ireland Fraud Forum Conference, Bill McCluggage, chair, NI Fraud Forum, said: “There is no doubt that cyber-enabled crime and online scams have reached epidemic proportions, with this only set to increase as we fast approach Black Friday and the busy Christmas shopping period.
"We know that just recently, international students in Belfast were scammed out of a significant amount of money, reminding us that this is a problem much closer to home than we all might like to imagine. It’s appalling that, if the recent trend continues, 1 in 10 of us are likely to lose money to these criminals. These fraudsters are also taking advantage of people’s generosity with fake charity scams, and they are ruthlessly exploiting users of social media with their evolving methods of deception.
“Not only can victims loose large sums of money to these scams, but they also inflict significant distress on those who fall prey to them, especially amidst a protracted cost of living crisis. It is staggering that two thirds of people who responded to the Global Anti-Scam Alliance and Cifas survey said that they did not report the incident to any authorities.
“It is clear that we need to do more to counter this growing problem of online fraud and cyber-crime in Northern Ireland. Two new Acts of Parliament, namely the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act and the Online Safety Act, will go some way in providing law enforcement, financial institutions, and organisations, with the tools to fight fraud and cyber-enabled crime. However, more needs to be actioned to raise awareness and prevent any further growth in fraud”.
Wayne Denner, speaker and author, added: “'Criminal gangs are increasingly targeting young adults and students as potential money mules. Using popular social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, these criminals lure you with promises of easy money. In 2020, the UK witnessed nearly 26,000 suspected cases of money muling among 14-30 year-olds. If you're in Northern Ireland, stay alert: these schemes might seem tempting, but getting involved means risking a criminal record. Never let anyone use your bank account to move money – it's not worth the risk”.