Finance

Criminals run rings around police and banks as UK fraud soars


T

he financial crime wave gripping Britain continues to accelerate, new figures show, with industry calling for the government to urgently step in and tackle the problem.

Crime soared last year as lockdowns left Brits stuck at home and vulnerable to scammers targeting them over the internet or by phone. However, new stats show the surge in fraud has not abated even as lockdown restrictions have eased.

UK Finance said today that fraud rose by 30% in the first six months of 2021, costing unsuspecting victims £753.9 million. The surge was driven by a huge rise in impersonation scams. Brits lost £129.3 million to fraudsters posing as delivery companies, the NHS, government departments, and private sector companies. Losses to this type of email and text scam were 123% higher than last year.

The UK has seen a recent wave of fraudulent texts from criminals pretending to be firms like Royal Mail or DHL asking for payment of a delivery fee for a fake package. Other scams include fraudulent investments advertised online and criminals posing as bank representatives to trick customers into transferring their cash to ‘safe’ accounts actually controlled by the fraudsters.

UK Finance said only coordinated government action could help tackle the crime wave, the bulk of which is thought to come from criminals operating in Britain.

“Our latest figures show the sheer scale of fraud taking place in the UK and highlight clearly the need for coordinated action to address this threat,” said Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance.

“The banking and finance industry invests billions in advanced systems to try and stop fraud happening in the first place, but criminals are exploiting weaknesses outside of banks’ control to trick customers into making payments directly to them.”

UK Finance said criminals were targeting people via social media to help launder the cash. Children as young as 14 are being recruited on social media to launder stolen money through their accounts.

“Criminals continue to target customers with a variety of scams, often via online platforms, and it is only through coordinated action that we will be able to really make progress in addressing the problem,” Worobec said.

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