Impersonation scams jump 84% in first half of 2020

UK Finance has revealed that almost 15,000 impersonation scam cases were reported by its members between January and June 2020, an increase of 84% compared to the same period last year.

Among these, more than 8,220 cases involved criminals impersonating the police or a bank, reflecting a year-on-year rise of 94%. Another 6,730 cases involved fraudsters imitating other trusted organisations – such as a utility company, communications service provider or government department – which reflected an increase of 74%.

Figures also showed that a total £58m was lost to impersonation scams between January and June, up 3% on the previous year. This was split between £36.7m lost to bank and police impersonation scams and £21.2m lost to scams impersonating other trusted organisations.

UK Finance has urged people to be aware of criminals exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to target their victims, highlighting that these scams include fraudsters sending emails or text messages pretending to be from government departments and offering grants related to COVID-19.

The banking body also suggested that criminals will tend to research their targets first, using information gathered from other scams, social media and data breaches in order to make their approach sound genuine. Scammers will often try to rush or panic their potential victims into making a payment – for example by claiming their money is at risk or that their account will be blocked unless they act.

“Criminal gangs are ruthlessly exploiting this pandemic to commit fraud, so it’s vital we all work together to beat them,” said UK Finance managing director of economic crime, Katy Worobec.

 “We are urging the public to remain vigilant against these vile scams and remember that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. Fraudsters will spend hours researching their victims, but they only need you to let your guard down for a minute.

 “Always take a moment to stop and think if you receive a request to make a payment from someone claiming to be from an organisation you trust. Instead, contact the company or organisation directly using a known email or phone number, like the one on their official website.”

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