Consumers have been warned of a serious rise in highly convincing investment scams that are being carried out by fraudsters.

The scams are particularly targeted at those over the age of 55, with a minimum investment of €20,000 or more.

The FraudSMART awareness initiative from the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) says the scams appear legitimate by using brochures with branding, as well as names of well-recognised bonds and investment schemes.

The brochures are being circulated by the fraudsters themselves and advertised online.

"The fraudsters hide behind websites, including product comparison websites, which appear to be legitimate and also make contact via cold calling, unsolicited emails, social media and text messages," said Niamh Davenport, Head of Financial Crime with BPFI.

She added that often the targets are not wealthy individuals, but people on low to average incomes who have worked hard all their lives to build up a pension and are at a stage where they are looking for a last opportunity to top up their finances ahead of retirement.

"In one reported incident an older customer was about to invest €60,000 from their pension into what appeared to be a legitimate scheme," Ms Davenport said.

"Fortunately, the customer made a call directly to their bank before pushing the payment through and this meant that the fraud was identified and averted."

FraudSMART said it is important that consumers, particularly those close to retirement, are aware that the scams offer very convincing investment opportunities.

But after the money has been handed over it vanishes without redress.

It is urging people to look for potential red flags such as when they are cold-called about an investment opportunity or are rushed or pressured into making a decision.

The promise of a quick return with little risk is also something to watch out for, it said.

Reacting to the warning, Sinn Féin finance spokesman, Pearse Doherty, said action must be taken to tackle investment scams and financial fraud.

"We need to ask when online platforms and social media companies will take responsibility for the fraudulent content that is being advertised on their platforms and robbing citizens of thousands of euro," said Mr Doherty.

"There is no requirement for online platforms and social media companies to pay compensation to victims of fraud – that needs to change."

"There is also no requirement for payment service providers to pay compensation to victims of authorised push payment fraud."

"And we have no system to cross-check the name of the person victims send their money to against the name on the actual account."

He added that these are all actions that can be introduced to protect potential victims of scams and fraud.