With the current hype around digital currencies, FraudSMART, the fraud awareness initiative led by BPFI wants to highlight the prominence of these scams and the risks.

Brian Hayes, chief executive of BPFI, said discussion around the benefits of trading in digital currencies has prompted advertising by legitimate investment companies looking for new customers.

However, he said this has provided the perfect opportunity for fraudsters.

“They are creating bogus companies offering fake ‘get rich quick’ crypto investment opportunities and promising big returns for little investment and effort,” he warned.

Mr Hayes said banks are reporting a large increase in digital currency scams in the last 12 months.

“In many cases this money can be people’s life savings, the loss of which can have devastating effects,” he said.

Mr Hayes said they are also aware of cases where customers are looking to take out loans for these investment scams.

“Traditionally investment type scams are targeted at those over 55 who have retirement savings, however our members are now seeing an increase in cases among those in their 20s who have higher levels of disposable incomes due to the current pandemic,” he said.

The Banking and Payments Federation Ireland said victims tend to be cold called, or lured by pop-up ads on social media which can often be accompanied by fake celebrity endorsements.

“The social media ads are linked to cloned websites which look genuine and offer big return on cryptocurrency investments which turn out to be bogus,” Mr Hayes explained.

Individuals seeking out alternative investment products are also being caught out as the fraudsters are very convincing, Mr Hayes said.

“They are very convincing and in all cases will create a sense of urgency and pressure not to lose out on a great deal,” he said.

Mr Hayes reminded customers that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

“We are urging all consumers to take heed of our warning today and to seek professional advise before making investment decisions,” he said.