Northern Ireland

£23.1m stolen by fraudsters in Northern Ireland last year

The PSNI said there were 5,412 reports of fraud in the last 13 months.

Scammers are becoming more sophisticated, police said
A phone with an unknown caller Scammers are becoming more sophisticated, police said (Alamy Stock Photo)

More than £23 million was stolen by fraudsters in Northern Ireland in the last year, police have said.

Some 5,412 reports of fraud were made to the PSNI in the last 13 months from December 2022 to January 15.

These reports resulted in total losses of around £23.1 million, according to figures from Action Fraud.

One of the biggest single losses was £200,000 following an impersonation scam.

Impersonation scams usually involve the fraudster contacting people through WhatsApp, via text or online on Facebook claiming to be police, banking and Government officials.

Chief Superintendent Gerard Pollock, chair of the ScamwiseNI Partnership
Valentine’s Day Chief Superintendent Gerard Pollock, chair of the ScamwiseNI Partnership

The figures have been described by alarming by Chief Superintendent Gerard Pollock, who chairs the ScamwiseNI Partnership.

He described some of the losses as having been “life-changing” and “life-long” for the victims.

“Behind each of these reports is a person or a business owner who have been cheated by criminals and had their money stolen,” he said.

“It can be a lifetime of savings or years of building a business. Not only can there be a significant financial hit, but this type of crime can also be really traumatic and emotionally distressing.”

Chief Superintendent Pollock urged the public to be on their guard against scams, particularly the commonly used impersonation scams.

“Earlier this year, an international student from China studying in Northern Ireland was scammed out of £200,000 by criminals posing as ‘Beijing Police’,” he said.

Bank customers across Northern Ireland were also targeted resulting in some businesses and individuals being swindled out of thousands of pounds.

Sums ranging between £5,000 up to close to £250,000 were taken by criminals from accounts.

Other commons frauds include investment scams and romance scams.

One man lost £12,000 after being befriended by a woman who persuaded him to make several transfers of money.

Chief Superintendent Pollock said many frauds are committed at distance, with criminals using phones, social media, emails and text messages.

“Last year, we had the opportunity through two separate campaigns to focus on scams affecting older people, and of ticket fraud through the ScamwiseNI Partnership. Nowadays with advances in technology, criminals can find their way into someone’s home, and access their banking and personal data without physically having to go to someone’s door,” he said.

“It’s important to remember anyone can be targeted by a scam and criminals will constantly change how they present their scam to lure people in and swindle them, but the core is the same – they’re trying to get your personal and financial details which is used to commit a more sophisticated scam where the losses can be substantial.”

He urged the public to “stop, check, report” when they are suspicious of an approach.

Scams can be reported to police online at or by calling on 101.