The Minister for Justice, Heather Humphreys TD, and Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Driscoll have announced that An Garda Síochána will from this month organise events nationwide to inform the public of the dangers of cybercrime. This follows a dramatic rise in the number of scams both online and over the phone.
The events will be run nationwide by the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau in conjunction with Community Gardaí and Crime Prevention Officers and will initially focus on our older and business communities.
The move is one of a number of initiatives being taken by the Department and An Garda Síochána as part of European Cybersecurity Month.
Speaking at the launch of the campaign at the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau’s offices at Harcourt Square, Minister Humphreys said: “We have all received some of these strange phonecalls and text messages over the last few months. Some of them can be very sophisticated and unfortunately it is easy to be scammed out of significant amounts of money. The campaign we are launching today is aimed at providing information to the public on what to look out for and how to avoid falling victims to these criminals.
“In particular, we want to make sure our older citizens and our business community can recognise scams and know what to do if they are targeted. The key message is to not respond, do not engage and do not give any personal or financial details.”
The CSO recorded crime stats for Q2 2021, published on 29 September, showed a 40% increase in fraud offences in the year to June 2021 when compared to the previous year. This increase mostly occurred in Q1 and Q2 of this year and primarily relates to fraudulent attempts to obtain personal or banking information online or by phone as well as fraudulent use of credit and debit card information.
The campaign will see Community Gardaí and Crime Prevention Officers around the country providing information to local communities on how to avoid falling victim to such scams. This will be done through local information events, as well as through the normal engagement Gardaí will have with their communities.
It will also see a substantial advertising campaign on national radio and print media to build public awareness of the risks and how to avoid them.
Assistant Commissioner O’Driscoll said: “Technology has transformed all our lives and provided us with new ways to conduct business and to stay in touch with each other. However, criminals have also identified the opportunities that computers provide. Consequently, cybercrime poses a growing threat to every computer user.
"Crimes such as computer hacking, ransomware and online frauds have no borders and can occur at the click of a button or the swipe of a screen.
"To date in 2021, incidents of computer interference have increased by over 150% with similar levels of growth experienced in cyber-enabled crimes such as online frauds and exploitation.
"Ensuring cyber safety is everyone’s responsibility. The message of Being Safe when Home is more important than ever as many people and companies are now working from home. In cooperation with other interested parties, the Garda Síochána has identified some simple but effective steps which can make cyberspace safer to operate within and more difficult for criminals to abuse.
"Our advice is don’t respond to unsolicited emails or links; Don’t share personal information online and always have a secure and separate backup of your computer systems.
Speaking at the launch, Sean Moynihan, Chief Executive of ALONE said: “Issues such as cybersecurity are a growing concern for older people who are making great strides towards bridging the digital divide. These online cyber-attacks are detrimental to people’s confidence online and have been exacerbated in the past year. We understand that safety and security is integral to older people and we want to reduce the amount of fear that older people have navigating the digital world.
“We always advise older people to be cautious and careful with sharing any personal and financial information over the phone or online. The age sector is working with the government and t private companies to give older people the training and support to be confident online and reduce any fears people have.
“From our work we also know that technology can also be an empowering tool for older people that allows them to manager their wellbeing , security and social connection.
"If you feel like you may be the victim of an online scam, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. It is important to always report these incidents to prevent these crimes being committed.”
In addition to the general public, criminals are also targeting businesses. In order to make businesses aware of the threats facing them, the campaign will also be targeting small and medium business owners to advise them of the steps to take to ensure the security of their businesses.
The Minister added: “We are all aware of large scale attacks such as that on the HSE earlier this year. However criminals also often target small and medium businesses and those who fall victim to these attacks can face serious financial and reputational consequences. It is vital that those who fall victim to such attacks report what has happened to Gardaí and that all businesses take the vital steps needed to protect themselves online. Sharing this information will help protect other businesses from similar attacks.”
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.