Wednesday 16 September 2020 12:01 am

Impersonation scams up 84 per cent amid coronavirus crisis

Impersonation scams were up by 84 per cent in the first half of the year as criminals tried to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to take people’s money, according to a new report.

Banking body UK Finance said there were 15,000 impersonation scams reported to its members between January and June. That was an 84 per cent increase compared to a year earlier.

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However, it appeared that Brits had become more wily. The amount lost to scammers only grew three per cent year on year. Nonetheless, that meant fraudsters gained £58m between January and June.

Impersonation scams occur when criminals claiming to be from a trusted person, company or organisation try to convince people to send them money.

Fraudsters posing as government departments

UK Finance said the rise in these scams during 2020 was partly driven by coronavirus. For example, fraudsters have commonly presented to be from the government offering grants or help related to Covid-19.

Scammers have also claimed to be from airlines or travel agencies, offering refunds for cancelled trips. Or they have claimed to be from IT companies offering to fix people’s wifi as they work from home.

“Criminal gangs are ruthlessly exploiting this pandemic to commit fraud, so it’s vital we all work together to beat them,” said Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance.

Of the 15,000 reported impersonation scams, over 8,200 cases involved criminals impersonating the police or a bank. A further 6,700 cases involved fraudsters pretending to be from organisations like utility companies, telecoms providers or government departments.

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Worobec said: “We are urging the public to remain vigilant against these vile scams and remember that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police.

“Always take a moment to stop and think if you receive a request to make a payment from someone claiming to be from an organisation you trust.”