Criminals steal £129.4m in impersonation scams in 2021

UK Finance has joined warnings over impersonation scams after cases of fraudulent calls, text and emails more than doubled in the first half of 2021.

New figures from the industry body showed that the number of impersonation scam cases hit 33, 115 in the first 6 months of the year, resulting in criminals stealing £129.4 million through this type of fraud alone over this time.

This is more than double the same period last year, when there were 14,947 impersonation scam cases which led to £57.9 million 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.

The criminal then tricks their victim into transferring money using a range of cover stories. These 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 nearly one in five (19 per cent) of people feel uncomfortable saying ‘no’ to a request for personal information from a stranger via email or text, rising to almost a quarter (23 per cent) when it comes to phone calls. This could leave them at risk of an impersonation scam, the campaign group said.

Overall, 92 per cent of people admit to saying ‘yes’ because they don’t want to appear rude.

To help people stay safe, the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign advice is to stop, challenge and protect themselves by contacting the bank immediately if they think they’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.

The impersonation scams data are the first published figures from UK Finance’s half-yearly fraud report, which will be published later this month.

Commenting on the findings, Tony Blake, fraud expert at Take Five said: “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.”

He added: “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.”

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