More than £20m lost to fraud in NI in past 13 months

More than £20 million has been lost to fraud in Northern Ireland over the past 13 months, according to latest figures.

Jan 17, 2024
By Paul Jacques

The Police Service of Northern Ireland says since December 2022 it has received 5,412 reports of fraud with total losses of approximately £23.1 million.

The latest figures from Action Fraud cover the 13 months to January 15.

Chair of ScamwiseNI Partnership, Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Superintendent Gerard Pollock, describes the figures as “alarming”. He says, for many, the consequences of fraud, especially those that run into the bigger sums of money, can be life-changing and life-long.

“Behind each of these reports, is a person or a business owner who have been cheated by criminals and had their money stolen,” says Chief Supt Pollock. “It can be a life time of savings or years of building a business. Not only can there be a significant financial hit, but this type of crime can also be really traumatic and emotionally distressing.”

He added: “We all need to continue to be on our guard against this type of crime. Over the past year criminals continued to deploy the same common scams. These include impersonation scams when people are contacted by criminals online, through WhatsApp, via text or online on Facebook. Criminals can pose as police, banking and government officials.

“Earlier this year, an international student from China studying in Northern Ireland was scammed out of £200,000 by criminals posing as ‘Beijing Police’.”

Last year fraudsters targeted bank customers across Northern Ireland, resulting in some businesses and individuals being swindled out of thousands of pounds. Sums ranging between £5,000 up to around £250,000 were taken by criminals from accounts.

Other commons frauds include investment scams and romance scams. Recently, there was a report of a £12,000 loss in a WhatsApp/romance scam where a man had been befriended by a woman who struck up a friendship and, over time, convinced him to make several transfers of money.

“One of the biggest losses reported to police in 2023 was by a person who lost £200,000 as a result of an impersonation scam,” says Chief Supt Pollock. “This case, like many frauds, are committed at distance, with criminals using phones, social media, emails and text messages.”

He added: “Last year, we had the opportunity, through two separate campaigns, to focus on scams affecting older people, and of ticket fraud through the ScamwiseNI Partnership.

“Nowadays with 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 and swindle them, but the core is the same – they’re trying to get your personal and financial details which is used to commit a more sophisticated scam where the losses can be substantial.”

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