It’s reported that scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in how they operate, and are using WhatsApp and other messaging tools to gain access to funds and bank accounts.
“We have seen numerous residents in South Belfast suffer very significant financial loss and emotional distress as a result of scammers luring them into sending them money under false pretences. It's just despicable and it can ruin peoples lives,” said Ms Nicholl.
“On some occasions, victims have received a message claiming to be from a relative or friend, advising the person that they had changed their number. Once the number is saved to their contacts, they would then proceed to ask the victim to send them money for an urgent payment, assuring them that they would pay them back when they visited them next.
“My team and I have spent considerable periods of time advocating to banks on behalf of my constituents, but once the money has been sent, it has proven extremely difficult to fully recover the funds. It’s inevitably a very emotional and distressing situation for people to find themselves in.
“I would urge everyone to have conversations with friends and family about the warning signs of scamming and how to spot it, especially with older, more vulnerable people who may be the most susceptible. NI Direct in particular have some very useful resources and information about common scams and how to avoid them.
“I would also urge banks and building societies to do more to educate their customers and to show compassion and understanding when scams take place.”