Impersonation scams double in first half of 2021

The number of impersonation scam cases has more than doubled in the first half of 2021 to 33,115, new figures from UK Finance have revealed.

The banking body is warning the public about the increase in fraudulent calls, texts and emails.

These scams resulted in criminals stealing £129.4m through this type of fraud alone in the first half of the year. In the same period last year, there were 14,947 impersonation scam cases which led to £57.9m being stolen.

In an impersonation scam, a criminal pretends to be from a trusted organisation such as a bank, the police, a government department or a service provider, and then tricks their victim into transferring money using a range of cover stories. These can include claiming they need to protect an account from fraud, that a fine or tax needs to be paid or an erroneous refund must be returned.

The rise in impersonation scams comes as research for the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign found that almost one in five people (19%) feel uncomfortable saying “no” to a request for personal information from a stranger via email or text, which climbed to 23% when it comes to phone calls. Overall, 92% of people admit to saying “yes” because they don’t want to appear rude.

Take Five fraud expert, Tony Blake, commented: “Criminals are experts at pretending to be someone they are not – and can fool even the savviest of people, who don’t want to seem rude.

“If someone contacts you unprompted and asks for personal or financial information, stop and take a moment to think - even if they claim to be from an organisation you trust. Only criminals will put pressure on you to act quickly. Remember it’s ok to say no and contact the organisation through a route you know to be genuine.

“The banking and finance industry works to tackle fraud on every front, through investing millions in advanced technology and working closely with the government and law enforcement to stop the criminal gangs responsible.”

The impersonation scams data released by UK Finance today will form part of the banking body’s half-yearly fraud report, which will be published later this month.

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