The amount of money lost to victims of authorised push payments fraud in the UK rose to £479 million in 2020, as criminals used the Covid-19 pandemic to target people online.
Banks were able to return £206.9 million of the losses from APP fraud to victims, over three quarters more than the sum returned in 2019.
Impersonation scam cases, in which criminals impersonate trusted organisations to trick victims into handing over their money, almost doubled to 39,364 cases in 2020, the largest increase of all scam types.
During the pandemic, criminals sent fraudulent emails claiming to offer government support to those impacted by the pandemic and scam text messages requesting payments to book a Covid-19 vaccine. They also impersonated delivery companies to exploit the rise in online shopping.
To capitalise on the increase in online activity during the pandemic, UK Finance has also seen the emergence of criminals openly advertising fraud and scam services for sale online, including template phishing websites and custom-built scam apps which replicate real banking apps.
UK Finance is calling for fraud to be included in the scope of the government’s Online Safety Bill. This would ensure that online platforms such as social media firms, search engines and dating websites take action to address vulnerabilities in their systems that are being exploited by criminals to commit fraud.
Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, says: “We are seeing a worrying rise in online and technology-enabled scams that evade banks’ advanced security systems and use digital platforms to target victims directly, tricking them into giving away their money or information.
“We urge the government to use the upcoming Online Safety Bill to ensure online platforms take action to protect customers by taking down scam adverts on search engines, removing fake profiles on online dating websites and tackling fraudulent content on social media.”
On the upside, contactless card fraud losses fell by 22% to £16 million, the first annual fall since this data started being collected in 2013. This is likely to be related to lockdown restrictions limiting opportunities for criminals to commit contactless fraud using lost and stolen cards.
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