Fraud - the Facts: Behind the figures

Following our publication of the Fraud the Facts 2021 report, I wanted to draw out some of the headlines and themes. 

In 2020 we saw total fraud as reported by UK Finance members reach just over £1.26 billion. While we have seen figures for we might call traditional fraud such as card and cheque fraud fall, we have seen increases in remote banking fraud and cases of authorised push payment (APP) fraud.

The question is, what is driving this increase? We have undoubtedly seen fraudsters capitalise on the pandemic, adapting online and technology enabled scams and using social engineering to get personal and financial details and passwords from their victims so they can access their accounts, or to dupe them into making payments themselves.

Fraudsters have callously played on people's fears, using scam emails, texts and phone calls and threatening fines for breaking lockdown. They have been offering vaccinations in return for payment and promising tax refunds from HMRC.

They brazenly advertise fake investment deals on online platforms.

They recruit people desperate for cash as money mules by advertising on social media, in order to use their accounts to launder the funds from their crimes.

And they are openly selling fraud and scam services online and on social media.

The industry prevented £1.6 billion of fraud in 2020. It achieved this through sophisticated detection systems, initiatives like Confirmation of Payee and warnings at the point where the customer is about to make a payment. Nonetheless, the reality is that fraudsters are using vulnerabilities which are outside the control of the banks to socially engineer victims and coach them to avoid the triggers that might alert the bank to a fraud.

It is vital that innocent victims of fraud should be protected, and banks refund around 98 per cent of all unauthorised fraud according to the Payment Services Directive and just under 50 per cent of the APP frauds under a Voluntary Code. It's worth remembering however that in most cases the fraudster still has the cash or goods - and often uses these to fund other crimes like human trafficking and terrorism.

We can't expect law enforcement to prosecute each and every case of fraud. Similarly, we can't expect customers to be able to spot every scam. I think though that we should hope that online platforms and social media companies would want to play their part in helping to stem this tide, and that government and regulators would do likewise in addressing barriers which might be hampering the fight.

Finally, we can all follow the Take Five advice - Stop. Challenge. Protect. - and think before we give away our personal details or succumb to a 'too good to be true? offer.

Area of expertise: