The public, particularly vulnerable and elderly citizens, should be wary of a phone scam asking for bank details in order to claim Government electricity credits, according to Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins.
Deputy Higgins has urged members of the public not to hand over bank account details to fraudsters who are currently using an official Government of Ireland information page on electricity credits in order to scam unsuspecting individuals.
Deputy Higgins said: “Constituents have alerted me to a convincing phone scam currently in operation where individuals are receiving texts claiming to be from GOV.IE , telling them they are eligible for a discounted electricity bill under the Energy Support Scheme.
“They are then directed to a link to apply for the credit, which brings them to an official government page from the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, with information on the Electricity Costs Emergency Benefit Scheme II.
“This page has information relating to the previous three credits given in the November/December 2022, January/February and March/April 2023 billing cycles. Customers who received those credits did not need to apply for them or contact their electricity provider as the credit was applied automatically.
“However, through this latest highly sophisticated scam, individuals are asked to click on a “Verify Now” button which brings them to a page asking for their personal details including address and telephone number. Once they hit continue, they are then asked for their card details, including number, expiry date and CVV number.
“They are then directed to log into their internet account depending on which banking institution they have inputted..
“I am extremely concerned that given the content of this scam, a vulnerable or elderly individual may hand over their bank details to these fraudsters, thinking it is a legitimate message from a Government department regarding how to claim their electricity credits.
“As announced in this year’s Budget, over 2.2 million households will benefit from a new tranche of Electricity Credits — worth €450 in total. Three payments of €150 (including VAT) will be made between December 2023 and April 2024.
“Individuals need to remember that similar to last year and earlier this year, the credit will be applied automatically. Households do not need to apply for it, nor do they need to contact their electricity supplier.
“Criminals are now using ever more sophisticated methods of phoning and texting customers and can make replicas of official web pages to make it appear that the communication is legitimate.
“With regard to phone and email scams, if something feels unsafe or unofficial do not give bank account details to third party and err on the side of caution.
“If you suspect you have been the victim of fraudulent activity, immediately end the call and ring back the number on the back of your card or call the official number for your branch.
“Banking customers are also advised to never click on links sent in a message, or share passwords, or the full five digits of your personal access codes with anyone,” Deputy Higgins concluded.