The scams are known as mandate frauds and involve emails being compromised or spoofed.
The Church of Ireland is backing the Scamwise NI campaign through the Church Leaders’ Group. Reports to police in recent weeks include losses ranging from £20,000 to over £400,000 using a variety of scams targeting members of the public and corporate organisations.
In one example, a man who had dealings with an online investment company was advised to make a payment to a different bank account number. While the bank details were different, the company name was the same. The man was scammed into transferring £20,000.
In another case, a business transferred around £50,000 to a supplier. The supplier’s bank details, however, had been amended by the scammers after they had hacked into one of the business’s accounts and the money was transferred to the scammers instead.
Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said: “Throughout July we have received numerous calls from people who have been duped out of their hard earned money. No matter what type of scam it is, and the different methods employed, a common element shared by scammers is their only aim is to take money from people and will go to great lengths to trick people.
“I can’t stress enough to businesses and individuals alike never to disclose personal or banking details to anyone over the phone, no matter how convincing it seems to you.
“Before making payments, double check that the accounts to which the payments are being made are the correct accounts. Never disclose account details to any unauthorised person or allow anyone access to them via your computer.
“If you are concerned by unsolicited calls, emails or letters then please report it to Action Fraud via their website www.actionfraud.police.uk or by phoning 0300 123 2040, or call police on the non-emergency number 101.”
Resources for parishes are available at www.ireland.anglican.org/scamwiseni