Fraud in the UK has risen to a level where it poses a “national security threat”, according to the main banking body, with £754m stolen from bank customers during the first half of this year – a 30% rise on the same period in 2020.

Losses from bank transfer scams leapt by 71% to £355m during the first half of the year, almost £2m a day. There were a total of 106,164 cases of such fraud, equivalent to 12 people being defrauded every half an hour

The organisation said fraudsters had capitalised on the coronavirus pandemic, with some criminals even targeting children as young as 14 via social media to become money mules, in which bank account is used to launder stolen money.

In previous years, the largest losses have involved debit and credit cards being used to commit fraud but this year scammers focused their activity on authorised push payment fraud.
  • Push payment fraud typically  involves email accounts being hacked in order to trick individuals and businesses into sending money to bank accounts operated by criminals posing as genuine customers.
  • It sometimes involves people who are buying a property, having building work done or employing a solicitor and they need to make a sizeable payment as a result.  Cyber criminals who are ‘sitting’ on the email account intercept the mails and posing as the organisation receiving payment redirect the monies to an account they have set up.
  • The scams also included many cases where criminals pose as delivery companies, people looking for romance or investment firms.
Criminals also seized on people’s fears about the pandemic and pretended to be from trusted organisations such as the NHS or government departments in order to send out scam texts and emails. These scams were up 123% in the first six months of 2021 compared with the same period last year.
  • Investment scam losses almost doubled, hitting a 95% rise, as criminals exploited a low interest rate environment to post adverts on social media offering high returns.
UK Finance said much of the criminal activity was taking place outside the banking system and called on the big tech companies to do more to clamp down on the fraud being perpetrated on their platforms. This may be like throwing pennies at the moon because to date social media platforms have met these calls with silence or deferring comments.
  • To avoid falling victim to push payment fraud its important to guard your email address and password and not fall victim to phishing mails which often try to harvest this information (see earlier blogs to learn how to identify phishing mails).
  • If you receive emails, texts or phone calls requesting personal information ignore them. Legitimate organisations never ask for this information.
  • If you have to make a large payment and receive messages asking to deposit funds into an account, always double check by calling the organisation.