98. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Justice if her Department has engaged with mobile phone network providers regarding the actions they are taking to tackle the practice of criminals using their mobile phone network to send phishing or smishing text messages; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22497/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): I can assure the Deputy that the criminal activity known as 'phishing' or 'smishing' is taken very seriously by my Department and is the subject of on-going engagement between An Garda Síochána and the banking and technology industries.
Preliminary data indicates an increase in this form of crime over recent years. I am aware that Gardaí have highlighted scams of late where people have pretended to be from An Garda Síochána, the Department of Social Protection, the Attorney General’s Office, banks, delivery companies, businesses and even in recent weeks, the Department of Justice.
I am informed that work is on-going in An Garda Síochána to tackle this issue. This includes, but is not limited to the issuing of advisory notices to members of the public warning against this criminal tactic and advising how to proceed should they be targeted.
I am further informed that the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) meet regularly with banking institutions, the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) and representatives from 3ireland. GNECB take preventive action in an effort to disable Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) numbers, which both prevents and disrupts fraudulent activity. VoIP Numbers are commonly purchased in batches and in circumstances where a number is identified as being involved in fraud, GNECB endeavour to get it and any other number purchased in the same batch disabled.
GNECB also liaise with ComReg to establish if the VoIP was registered in Ireland. In the first two months of 2021, GNECB have successfully engaged with VoIP providers to have 12 numbers disabled that were identified as being used for fraudulent purposes. In addition, GNECB have also conducted enquiries on websites suspected of being involved in fraud and in the first three months of 2021, they have successfully suspended 80 such websites that were being used to target Irish residents.
In addition, GNECB actively engages with the BPFI and the Irish Telecommunications Security Fraud Forum (ITSFF) with regard to providing advice and assistance relating to all cybercrime threats. This engagement is ongoing in relation to disrupting suspected fraudsters' ability to target unsuspecting victims through SMS (smishing) messages.