Fraud is now a ‘threat to National Security’

Our recent article followed the rise of impersonation scams where fraudsters pretend to be someone else (like a bank or the police) to trick their targets into handing over personal data or money. UK Finance, the trade body for financial service firms, has released more startling data inside their 2021 Half Year Fraud Report.

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The headline numbers are nothing short of staggering:

  • A 30% annual increase in money stolen through fraud to £754m (first 6 months of 2021 compared to same period in 2020).
  • Advanced security systems inside banks stopped a further £736m from leaving victims’ accounts.
  • Fraudsters have doubled down on Authorised Push Payment (APP) Fraud where they impersonate a figure of authority and have victims ‘willingly’ hand the money over. This rose 71% in the first 6 months of 2021, to surpass general card fraud where the theft does not involve the victims’ ‘co-operation’.
  • 70% of APP scams originated on an online platform, mostly fake websites and fraudulent advertising on social media and within search engines.

 

Katy Worobec the MD of Economic Crime at UK Finance says:

“The level of fraud in the UK is such that it is now a national security threat. The banking sector cannot solve this on its own, there must be a coordinated approach adopted across every sector if this is to be tackled effectively. Throughout the pandemic we have been working with other industries, including mobile phone and network operators and online platforms, to help step up the fight against fraud.  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 is effectively saying that scammers are winning by convincing individuals to open the door for them to get around complex security.  Victims are unwittingly handing over details (like PIN numbers and passwords) during impersonation scams that mean the investments in security become redundant.

Increasingly, UK Finance warns, fraudsters are using social media to scam their victims and are targeting teenagers as young as 14 to become ‘money mules’ (see our article on that topic here).

Nationwide bank recently revealed details of recent police impersonation scams affecting their customers.  They warned of an elaborate con that is so intricate it almost defies belief and sounds like the plotline from a movie.  The victim will receive a call from ‘the police’ that informs them their local Nationwide branch is being investigated for issuing counterfeit banknotes through its cashpoint machines, and they are asked to help by ‘going undercover’ to expose the crime and be a good citizen.

The scam depends on a completely convincing and trusting relationship being developed: it concludes with cash being handed over to ‘the police’ or moved into a ‘police bank account’.  Needless to say the whole thing is made up and Nationwide reminds customers to NEVER hand over cash, cards or PIN numbers to anyone who called or contacted them unexpectedly.

 

It sounds like no-one could possibly fall for this, but people do.  It may be that your grandma is a weaker target than you are, so keep close to her and the calls she is receiving.  We write these articles so IPS members hear how incredible these stories are becoming, but they must be working somewhere otherwise the scammers wouldn’t do it.  Many victims will keep quiet because they are too embarrassed to come forward.

 

The UK Finance report goes on to warn that the lack of regulation of the technology platforms that are ubiquitous in our everyday lives is creating more danger.  They call on the Government to include all aspects of economic crime in its upcoming Online Safety Bill.  Currently there are only a few specific crimes detailed.  The Bill should go further.

IPS View

Are you safe from scams like this?
Would you smell a rat?
Could you easily change all your passwords if you realised you had made a mistake and handed an important one over to a criminal?

 

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