Banking scams push up UK financial fraud by more than 25%

Fraudsters managed to steal £755m from British consumers and financial institutions during 2015 – a 26% increase on the year before.

Financial Fraud Action UK said the biggest growth area was remote banking fraud, which typically sees fraudsters posing as bank staff in a bid to con people into sending them money via online banking.

The figures published on Thursday show this type of fraud leapt by 72% in 2015 and more than £168m was stolen from unsuspecting consumers.

In most cases the banks involved would have refused to refund the customer on the basis that they had made the payment voluntarily. Victims of such fraud have told the Guardian that the police have not been interested in investigating such cases even though the losses have been as much as £25,000.

Internet banking fraud rose 64% to £133m during 2015, while losses due to telephone banking fraud rose 92% to £32.3m, Financial Fraud Action UK said.

In recent years, Guardian Money has highlighted the increasingly sophisticated tactics being adopted by scammers to steal consumers’ cash. As security systems have improved in other areas of banking, fraudsters have opted to target consumers directly by phoning them up, or using online vulnerabilities.

Scammers have pretended to be bank staff, police and from firms such as TalkTalk, and persuaded consumers to send money to their bank accounts, aided by the faster payments system and previously lax account opening requirements at banks.

Fraudsters have also increasing been hacking emails and then posing as builders, for example, to ask for deposits to be sent to them.

Katy Worobec, director of Financial Fraud Action UK, which represents all the major banks and bank card issuers, said: “With the continued rise in impersonation scams and data breaches it’s vital that all customers are alert to the dangers. Everyone should be cautious about giving out personal or financial information, and organisations holding data need to do all they can to protect people’s private details.”


She said fraud losses on UK payment cards remain the biggest area of fraud. Losses in 2015 totalled £567.5m, an 18% increase on the previous year. A total of £843.6m of attempted card fraud was prevented by banks and card companies, equivalent to £6 out of every £10 of fraud being stopped, it said.

The figures showed bank and card company security systems detected and prevented a total of £1.76bn worth of fraud from occurring in 2015 – equivalent to £7 in every £10 of potential fraud being stopped.

Overall, cheque fraud losses totalled £18.9m , a 6% fall on the 2014 figure as cheque usage declined. Just over £2.8m were lost to mobile banking fraud last year.

Last month, the home secretary, Theresa May, announced the creation of a new taskforce to crack down on fraud in the UK, saying that “fraud shames our financial system”.

The Joint Fraud Taskforce will be comprise key representatives from government, law enforcement and the banking sector, but has a long way to go to restore confidence among victims, who have repeatedly been told by the banks and police that there is nothing they can do to help them.

Detective chief superintendent Dave Clark, who heads the City of London police’s economic crime unit, said: “Criminals are continually looking to exploit old and new technology alike to deceive both individuals and organisations into revealing private information that will enable them to commit fraud, sometimes on an industrial level. The only way this problem can be fully addressed is by having a multi-sector response focusing on prosecution, prevention and protection.”