UK victims lost £1.3bn in 2021 amid rising online fraud, new data shows | Scams

More than £1.3billion was stolen by scammers last year, figures reveal, with authorized push payment (APP) fraud, where victims are tricked into making a payment, rising sharply as pandemic restrictions have eased.

The amount lost to APP fraud reached £583.2m in 2021, a 39% increase on 2020, according to research by banking industry organization UK Finance.

He revealed there were 195,996 incidents of APP fraud in the UK last year, up 27% from the previous year as people worked more from home, spent more time in online and made more purchases on the Internet, which made victims more vulnerable to such scams.

Nearly 40% of APP fraud losses were due to identity theft scams, where criminals pretend to be from a trusted contact to trick victims into transferring their money, with an estimated total of 214.8 million pounds stolen using this method.

The criminals impersonated organizations such as the NHS, banks and government departments via phone calls, texts, emails, fake websites and social media posts to trick people into transmitting their personal and financial information which was then used to convince account holders to make a payment.

Investment scams were the second largest category of APP fraud losses, with £171.7 million stolen in total, an increase of 57%.

Purchase scams – where someone is tricked into buying a product that does not exist – was the most common type of fraud, with cases up 18% to 99,733, with total losses reaching 64 £.1 million, an increase of 25%.

The amount lost to romance scams, which involve a criminal befriending the victim on an online dating site before asking for money, soared 73% in 2021. In total, Victims of these scams lost £30.9million and the number of cases rose 41% to 3,270 last year.

The type of APP fraud that grew the most in terms of losses in 2021 was CEO fraud, where scammers send an email, often to a corporate accounting department, claiming to be from a senior executive asking that an urgent payment is made to a supplier or partner.

There were 461 cases of CEO fraud last year, a jump of 29%, with losses rising by 165% to £12.7m.

UK Finance said 271.2 million was returned to victims of APP scams, representing 47% of total losses.

The banking industry group called for more to be done to tackle the problem, saying online platforms such as social media, search engines and shopping sites must ‘provide a barrier to fraud, not a conduit’ .

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said: “Authorized fraud losses have increased further this year, with criminals targeting people through a variety of sophisticated scams, much of the criminal activity taking place outside the banking sector, often involving online and technology platforms.

“That’s why we continue to call on other industries to play a greater role in helping to protect customers from the scourge of fraud.”

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In contrast, losses due to unauthorized fraud, where the transaction is carried out by a criminal without the account holder’s permission, for example their card details used without consent, totaled £730.4 million in 2021, a decrease of 7% compared to 2020.

Victims of unauthorized payment card fraud are legally protected against loss, with analysis showing customers are refunded in over 98% of all confirmed cases.

The trade body urged consumers to stop and think before making a payment and contact their bank immediately if they believe they have fallen for a scam, and also report it to Action Fraud.

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