Criminals lied and tricked their way to stealing £500m from the UK public in the first half of the year, new figures today reveal.
While the finance industry managed to protect £2 in every £3 targeted by fraudsters, they managed to steal £503.4m, using it to fund terrorism, people smuggling and drug trafficking, according to trade association UK Finance, which published the data.
Purchase scams, in which victims are persuaded to pay upfront for things like cars and holidays which they never receive, accounted for almost two-thirds of so-called push payment scams in the six months to June.
Such scams amounted to £145m of losses for consumers, of which the finance industry managed to recover £31m.
Meanwhile, criminals successfully tricked 3,866 people into paying them money – often by claiming to be contacting them as a member of the police, or a bank representative, stealing an average of £11,000 by doing so.
Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said: “Fraud and scams pose a major threat to our country. Every part of society must help to stamp out this menace, especially by stopping the data breaches which increasingly are fuelling fraud."
She underlined various measures the sector plans to use to foil the fraudsters.
“The finance industry is committed to fighting back, investing millions in security systems and cyber defences to protect customers," she said. "We have brought in new standards to ensure scam victims get the help they need from their payments provider; we are supporting law enforcement in disrupting the criminals and freezing stolen money; and we are assisting the government in improving intelligence sharing to extinguish the threat.”
Equifax was fined £500,000 for leaking the personal details of 15m Brits in a breach last year, while British Airways lost 380,000 customers’ personal and financial details to hackers earlier this month.
Sarah Armstrong-Smith, head of continuity and resilience at Fujitsu, said it is vital to improve people’s understanding of digital threats to combat fraud like impersonation scams.
Read more: Equifax gets maximum fine for data breach
“Many financial services organisations, security firms, and online retailers are doing their best to protect people from scams, but at the end of the day it comes down to individual vigilance,” she said.
“You can have the best technical protection mechanisms in place, but without the person being aware of scams, the technical protection mechanisms will not always work.”
People are advised to check attempts to contact them are genuine by contacting the organisation they have received the email from with the details from their official website.