£1.3bn stolen through fraud in 2021

More than £1.3bn was stolen through fraud and scams in 2021, new figures published by UK Finance have indicated.

A report from the banking body revealed that £730.4m was stolen through unauthorised fraud while authorised push payment (APP) fraud was responsible for £583.2m. Nearly 40% of APP losses were due to impersonation scams.

UK Finance’s report has highlighted the scale of fraud taking place in the UK as well as how criminals took advantage of people’s fears during the pandemic to commit scams, often by exploiting weaknesses outside of the banking system.

Unauthorised fraud is where the account holder themselves does not provide authorisation and the transaction is carried out by a criminal, such as the victim’s card details being used without their knowledge or consent. Losses from this type of fraud losses across payment cards, remote banking and cheques totalled £730.4m in 2021, which was a decrease of 7% compared to 2020.

APP fraud is where the customer is tricked into authorising a payment to an account controlled by a criminal, with criminals in 2021 impersonating a range of organisations such as the NHS, banks and government departments via phone calls, text messages, emails, fake websites and social media posts to trick people into handing over their personal and financial information. They subsequently used this information to convince people into authorising a payment.

There were 195,996 incidents of APP scams in 2021 with gross losses of £583.2 m, including £214.8m lost to impersonation scams, £171.7m lost to investment scams, the second largest category of APP losses. UK Finance reported another 99,733 cases of purchase scams, which means this was the most common type of scam – accounting for 51% of all cases – although total losses were £64.1m.

A total of £271.2m of losses were returned to victims of APP scams, accounting for 47% of losses. For unauthorised payment card fraud, victims are legally protected against losses and industry analysis shows that customers are refunded in excess of 98% cent of all confirmed cases. According to the UK Finance report, the banking and finance industry prevented £1.4bn of unauthorised fraud from getting into the hands of criminals.

“Fraud has a devastating impact on victims and the money stolen funds serious organised crime, as well as imposing significant costs on the wider economy,” said UK Finance managing director of economic crime, Katy Worobec.

“Unauthorised fraud losses fell last year, but this type of criminal activity remains a major problem. Through the introduction of new measures such as strong customer authentication, coupled with continued investment in technology, the banking and finance industry prevents significant amounts of fraud from taking place.

“Authorised fraud losses rose again this year as criminals targeted people through a variety of sophisticated scams, with much of the criminal activity taking place outside the banking sector, often involving online and technology platforms. This is why we continue to call for other sectors to play a greater role in helping protect customers from the scourge of fraud.

“The upcoming Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill is an important development and provides the opportunity for the government to give new powers on information sharing and tracking stolen money. These are things we have long called for and will support efforts to work together and stop the fraud happening in the first place.”

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