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Fraud losses continue to climb with over £1.3bn stolen in 2021

From fake NHS Covid pass texts to phoney delivery fees, new fraud figures show how 2021 was a fruitful year for scammers

Authorised push payment (APP) fraud losses increased by 39% in 2021, topping £583m, according to the latest figures released by UK Finance.

APP fraud is when a scammer tricks you into transferring money to an account they control; a practice Which? has previously found is costing victims £28,000 an hour.

While unauthorised fraud, where scammers steal a victim’s details to gain access to their finances, fell by 7% compared to 2020, it still cost customers £730.4m in 2021.

Over £1.3bn was reported lost to fraud in 2021, although the banking and finance industry prevented a further £1.4bn being stolen from unauthorised fraud. The industry body, UK Finance, has called for cross-sector action to help curb these worrying fraud trends.

The five biggest types of fraud in 2021

1. Payment card fraud

This is where scammers steal your card information. In 2021, £524.5m was reported stolen from 2,823,202 victims, although the total number of cases had decreased by 7% since 2020.

2. Remote banking

This is where scammers gain access to your account (via online banking, telephone banking, or mobile banking). It saw a 20% increase in the number of cases reported in 2021, with total reported losses of £199.5m. Fraudsters often pose as trusted organisations to trick victims into giving away their personal and financial data, or abuse legitimate tools such as remote access software to hack into online accounts.

3. Investment scams

Investment scams typically involve dodgy online ads and fake websites, such as the Binance impersonation scam we uncovered in April. Statistics reveal that this type of scam rose by 57% in authorised fraud cases in 2021, with £171.7m stolen from 12,074 victims.

4. Bank and police impersonation scams

This type of scam typically involves a cold call from a scammer claiming to be from your bank. There was 39% increase in the number of cases in 2021, with £137.3m lost. 

5. Other impersonation scams

Events such as the Covid 19 pandemic and rising energy costs have seen scammers regularly impersonate the NHS and utility companies, we’ve also seen a significant number of scams impersonating delivery companies such as DPD, Evri and Royal Mail. The impersonation of these other bodies saw a 33% increase in the number of cases, with £77.5m lost in 2021.

What are banks doing?

Most banks are signed up to the Contingent Reimbursement Model code, which protects and reimburses you in cases of Authorised Push Payment fraud. However, reimbursement is dependent on whether banks deem scam victims as blameless, which varies significantly across the industry.

In fact, past Which? investigations have found cases of banks unfairly blaming APP scam victims.

According to UK Finance, the Banking Protocol, which enables staff at banks, building societies and Post Offices to alert the police when they think a customer is being scammed, prevented £60.7m from being stolen in 2021. This was up by 34% compared to 2020.

UK Finance also reported that banks have been working with Ofcom to tackle number spoofing and collaborating with text message providers and law enforcement to block scam text messages, with 2,098 unauthorised sender IDs currently blocked. The industry also helped prevent fraud losses by sharing intelligence on emerging threats, data breaches and compromised card details.

Rocio Concha, Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy said:

‘These latest figures expose the shocking scale at which people are experiencing APP scams, and are even more stark amid the current cost of living crisis. Yet all too often victims face a reimbursement lottery depending on who they bank with.’

'The government has announced its intention to enable mandatory reimbursement for bank transfer victims who are not at fault and this needs to be brought in as soon as possible. The Payment Systems Regulator must be ready to ensure that firms are treating customers fairly and consistently, and prepared to take enforcement action against those who breach the rules.’

How you can stay safe from scams

To help avoid falling for a scam, here are some of our top tips to watch out for:

  • Being contacted out of the blue - be suspicious of cold calls, unexpected emails or texts.
  • Avoid sharing personal and financial details - never share your personal info with anyone you are unsure about.
  • Beware of vague contact details - legitimate websites have a postal and email address as well as a phone number.
  • Being asked to keep it secret - be wary of those asking you not to share details of agreements with others.
  • An offer too good to be true - if it's too tempting an offer, then it could be scam designed to part you with your cash.
  • Being pressured to make a decision - this is a tactic used by scammers to get your money quickly before being caught.
  • Odd wording, spelling and grammar mistakes - this is an obvious sign that a message or email is not from a genuine company.

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This article was corrected on 6 July 2022 to clarify that remote banking is where scammers gain access to your account via online banking, telephone banking and mobile apps.