Bank of Ireland has said customers affected by smishing during the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw fraudulent texts dropped into genuine text threads from the bank, will be reimbursed.

In June gardaí raised awareness of the scam where people are contacted via text message informing them that their bank card has been skimmed and has been deactivated by the bank. 

The text appears as if it has been sent by the bank, however it has nothing to do with Bank of Ireland. 

The fraud then involves the customer being asked to follow a link to a false Bank of Ireland website to order a new bank card. 

It is through this process that the customer is asked to return the old card by post and also submit their card number, PIN and phone number.

Once these details are provided the fraudster can access the customer's account, make withdrawals and online purchases.

In recent weeks the scam has been highlighted by RTÉ's Liveline with callers sharing stories of having lost large amounts of money to the fraudsters, with some losing as much as €20,000.

Today, Bank of Ireland launched a fraud awareness campaign along with the announcement about the reimbursements.

In a statement Gavin Kelly, CEO Retail Ireland, Bank of Ireland said: "Smishing has been around for a long time, but there has been a spike in attacks since Covid-19, with fraudsters clearly recognising an opportunity to target consumers as we spent more time using phones and computers.

"Bank of Ireland has been working closely with customers for many years on this type of fraud so we understand the distress caused to customers, especially where it hasn't been possible to trace the money, which thankfully is the minority of cases.

"We have carried out a review into a recent smishing attack which has managed to defraud a number of customers. These cases have involved criminals inserting a fraudulent text into a thread containing genuine text messages from the Bank. This tricked customers into divulging their confidential banking details.

"However, we also acknowledge that fraudsters have been particularly active during this period and as consumers, we have had many other pressing concerns to deal with through Covid-19. Therefore we will be reimbursing the customers for these losses and the Bank will absorb the financial impact.

He added: "Bank of Ireland will never text, send emails or call a customer looking for their confidential banking details.

"The process where a fraudster can drop a text into a thread of text messages from any company is a common tactic used by criminals against the customers of banks and other service providers. We continue to work with the telecoms sector on this.

"If anyone has any suspicions on fraud, we have a 24/7 freephone line to support customers."