Fraud soars by 53% in a year as scammers get sophisticated

Financial services providers are launching a national campaign to combat rise in fraud and remind customers to stop and think

Fraud in the UK payments industry has soared by 53% in a year as criminals resort to increasingly sophisticated tactics to trick people out of their personal details and steal their money.

Official industry data shows that a total of 1,007,094 cases of financial fraud – involving online and phone banking, debit and credit cards, and cheques – occurred between 1 January and 30 June this year. That compares with the 660,308 cases reported during the same six-month period in 2015.

This means that an incident is happening every 15 seconds, according to Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK), whose members include the major banks and card issuers, and which issued the data.

To coincide with the figures, FFA UK and major banks and financial services providers have come together for the first time to launch a national campaign to combat financial fraud called Take Five.

This will focus on the financial frauds that directly target customers, such as phishing emails that purport to come from organisations such as banks or HM Revenue & Customs, and phone and text-based scams, sometimes dubbed vishing and smishing respectively.

Among the biggest growth areas are impersonation and deception scams, which involve criminals duping victims into disclosing their details. Fraudsters have increasingly been hacking into email accounts and then posing as the builder, solicitor or other tradesperson that the consumer has legitimately employed.

Some customers have lost considerable sums. Earlier this year the Guardian featured the case of Sarah and David Fisher, who were conned out of £25,000 after a fraudster posed as their builder and emailed them a realistic fake invoice.

Scammers also pretend to be bank staff and police officers to persuade consumers to send money to their bank accounts. Last week it emerged that criminals had set up a fake NatWest Twitter account, @NatWest_HelpTM, which tweeted customers who had got in touch with the bank’s genuine social media team, and directed them to a fake NatWest website which asked them for part of their pin number and their full password. The account was quickly shut down, but in such cases, fake accounts can quickly reappear with a slightly different handle.

In 2015, fraud in the UK payments industry totalled £755m. Katy Worobec, the director of FFA UK, said: “Last year banks stopped £7 in £10 of attempted fraud from happening. But as the banks’ systems get more advanced, fraudsters turn their attention elsewhere and sadly this often means tricking people out of their personal details and money.”

For cases involving transfers of money, the banks often refuse to refund customers on the basis that they made the payment voluntarily.

The new campaign is designed to remind people “that it pays to stop and think” before they respond to any financial requests and share any personal details. Its launch came a day after separate research claimed that one in 10 people have been the victim of a cyber-attack on their credit or debit card in the last year.

This study, from the website, found that in 62% of these cases, money was successfully removed from the account, with an average of £475 stolen. It said this equated to 4.5m credit or debit cards cancelled in the last 12 months, with more than £2.1bn stolen in total.


Rupert Jones

The GuardianTramp

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