By Iain Withers
LONDON – British bank customers were tricked out of 583 million pounds ($712 million) stolen through sophisticated fraud in 2021, up nearly 40% on the prior year, according to data published by trade body UK Finance.
Lenders have been battling increasingly complex fraud schemes against their customers, as criminals target the growing numbers of people banking and shopping online since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fraud losses at British banks increased 8% overall in the year to 1.3 billion pounds, the UK Finance report found.
But a breakdown revealed losses from so-called authorised push payment scams – where a customer is tricked into a payment by a criminal – grew 39% to 583 million pounds. Nearly half (47%) was reimbursed by banks to victims.
A 7% fall in losses from “unauthorised” fraud – where money gets stolen without a customer’s knowledge or consent, for instance with the use of stolen card details – helped keep a lid on the overall industry total, the report found.
The fastest-growing type of “authorised” scam were “CEO frauds”, where people inadvertently made a payment after receiving a message they believed to be from the boss of an organisation, up 165%.
Other fast-growing scams included “romance scams” – where the criminal steals money after pretending to develop a relationship with the victim – investment scams, and impersonations of police officers or bank staff.
UK Finance repeated its call for other sectors – including technology firms – to play a greater role in combating fraud. The trade body said it welcomed a planned UK law giving the government increased powers on information sharing and tracking stolen money.
Banks and card companies prevented 1.4 billion pounds of attempted unauthorised fraud in the year, the report said.
“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 Katy Worobec, managing director for economic crime at UK Finance.
($1 = 0.8193 pounds)