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Welcome to Britain, the bank scam capital of the world

  • Fraudsters steal $1 billion in simply six months – business information
  • Tech giants in focus as crooks take benefit of social media

LONDON, Oct 14 (Reuters) – It was an e-mail providing a reduction on an electrical toothbrush that started the sequence of occasions that ruined Anna’s life.

Within minutes of coming into her card particulars, she received a name from her bank telling her fraudulent transactions had been being made. The subsequent day Robert Clayton from Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority referred to as to say they had been pursuing the criminals accountable however that her financial savings had been in danger.

There was no toothbrush, although. No fraud division, no Robert Clayton. They had been all half of a scam to regularly siphon off Anna’s life financial savings, and inside just a few weeks the plot had succeeded, to the tune of about 200,000 kilos ($270,000).

“I am still in shock, the guilt and shame are impossible to convey,” mentioned the 78-year-old widower from central England, who didn’t need her full identify to be used on this story.

She is one of 1000’s of individuals who have seen financial savings swept away this yr by an unprecedented wave of on-line bank fraud hitting Britain, the place you are extra doubtless to be a sufferer of on-line fraud than every other crime.

The nation is the international epicentre for such assaults, in accordance to 5 of the largest British banks and greater than a dozen safety consultants who mentioned scammers had been shopping for up batches of shoppers’ private particulars on the darkish internet to goal the document numbers purchasing and banking on-line since the pandemic.

The nation’s super-fast funds infrastructure, comparatively mild policing of fraud-related crime, plus its use of the world’s most generally used language English, additionally made it a really perfect international take a look at mattress for scams, the banks and specialists added.

A British document of 754 million kilos ($1 billion)was stolen in the first six months of this yr, up 30% from the identical interval in 2020, in accordance to information from banking business physique UK Finance, and up greater than 60% from 2017, when it started compiling the figures.

That represents a per capita fraud charge roughly triple that seen in the United States in 2020, in accordance to a Reuters calculation from UK Finance and the newest out there Federal Trade Commission information.

“The most sophisticated fraud tends to start in the UK, and then move two years later to the U.S. and then around the world,” mentioned Ayelet Biger-Levin, vice chairman of product technique at U.S.-based cybersecurity agency BioCatch, which supplies anti-fraud expertise to banks.

“In the last 12 months we have seen more fraud attacks than we had seen in any other year in history. Data breaches have also accelerated, so there’s a lot more personal information out there that criminals can take advantage of.”


Unlike easy email-based scams of the previous purporting to be from princes or oil barons in search of your assist to shift their thousands and thousands, the trendy bank scam might be refined, multi-phased and very convincing.

“We’ve seen some cases where the fraudster has been talking to somebody for three or four years as someone else before they actually scam them out of a large amount of money,” mentioned Brian Dilley, group director for financial crime prevention at Britain’s largest bank Lloyds.

Deena Karia, one other scam sufferer, advised Reuters how she misplaced 10,000 kilos in early February after shopping for a seemingly protected bond purportedly issued by Credit Suisse and apparently listed on price-comparison website MoneySuperMarket.

After filling out a kind on the web site and receiving a name from a employees member there, she referred to as them again on the quantity listed on the web site to examine the cellphone quantity was legit, made additional checks about the bond and went on to make investments.

Karia, from outer London, nonetheless doesn’t know precisely how her cash was stolen, however believes the scammers could have created a pretend web site mimicking MoneySuperMarket.

The real MoneySuperMarket warned on Feb. 15 of crooks faking its web site and impersonating its employees. A spokesperson for the firm mentioned it’s working to take down such pretend web sites and cellphone numbers, working with the FCA to spotlight cloned web sites and reporting points to the police.

“I lost my Dad not long ago, I’m caring for my mother and that money would have supported us for years,” Karia mentioned.

Barclays, her bank, has refunded solely half the cash, saying she may have executed extra to shield herself.

“We have every sympathy with Miss Karia who was the victim of an investment scam and as the case is currently being investigated by the Financial Ombudsman Service, we await the conclusion of their review,” Barclays mentioned.


The authorities’s National Economic Crime Centre (NECC) agrees with the banking sector’s evaluation that fraud represents a risk to British safety.

“It is growing from an already enormous scale,” mentioned Chris Reed, fraud risk lead at NECC, which he mentioned was assembly at the least each month with bank bosses, expertise executives and telecoms firms to assess and reply to threats.

Britain’s Faster Payments’ community, which permits transfers between bank accounts to settle immediately quite than in hours or days as in the United States and different developed banking markets, means criminals can quickly spirit away funds.

“The faster payment system has facilitated faster fraud,” mentioned Richard Emery, a fraud professional who’s advising Anna and 63 different scam victims whose common loss is 102,000 kilos.

Pay.UK, which runs the community, mentioned the system supported the British financial system, shoppers and companies. It added that criminals had been getting higher at exploiting digitisation and that it was working with the business and regulator to combat fraud.

While safety consultants and senior bankers mentioned many fraud assaults may very well be traced abroad – together with from India and West Africa – Britain can also be more and more exporting assaults.

Crimes reminiscent of authorised push funds (APP) – the place individuals are tricked into authorising a fee by a prison posing as their bank or different trusted firm – are proliferating globally after having began off as a largely UK phenomenon.

The nation ranks second in the world behind the United States as a supply of automated bot assaults, the fastest-growing sort of fraud assault in the world, in accordance to information from LexisNexis Risk Solutions, a monetary crime evaluation agency.

Bot assaults see criminals use a excessive quantity of stolen id credentials to overrun a web site, permitting them to arrange new accounts or entry present ones.

“It’s popular to say the fraud threat is imported into the UK, and I don’t think that bears analysis,” mentioned NECC’s Reed. “There is a significant UK nexus to a lot of fraud, our operational experience is showing that.”


Britain’s banks – which regularly decide up the compensation invoice when individuals are scammed – are attempting to reply.

HSBC, which has operations in the Americas and Asia, has employed greater than 300 employees in a yr to assist its anti-fraud operations in its residence market and elevated annual spending by 40% to take care of an “exponential” quantity of prospects affected, the bank advised Reuters.

“The UK is the hotbed of activity for fraudsters. Currently the UK accounts for about 80% of our global personal fraud losses,” it mentioned.

Lloyds mentioned it had invested 100 million kilos in its defences over the previous two years, whereas rival NatWest has 10% of its workforce – amounting to 6,000 individuals – devoted to combating monetary crime. TSB has employed 100 additional employees to assist fraud victims in the final yr.

But lenders are additionally urgent the authorities to make social media platforms, the place they are saying some assaults originate, share the burden. British lawmakers advised bosses at Facebook, Google, Amazon and eBay final month that they wanted to do extra fight fraud.

The NECC’s Reed mentioned one other drawback was that simply 1% of policing sources had been devoted to preventing fraud, regardless of it making up over a 3rd of all crime in England and Wales.

“I won’t hide away from the fact that resourcing of the response is completely out of step with the scale and seriousness of the threat. We’ve got a mountain to climb.”

This signifies that criminals are emboldened to goal individuals like Anna, who has little hope of recovering her financial savings.

The fraudsters had advised her to shift her “at risk” money to an account on a cryptocurrency platform that they emptied – whereas isolating her from household by stressing secrecy and training her on how to reply to sceptical bank officers.

“They knew the name of my financial adviser, they were utterly convincing as FCA staff,” she mentioned. “And they told me I could not tell anyone about the investigation as it would damage their efforts to catch the crooks.”

($1 = 0.7327 kilos)

Reporting By Lawrence White and Iain Withers; Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Pravin Char

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A man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in this illustration picture taken on May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

A magnifying glass is held in front of a computer screen in this picture illustration taken in Berlin May 21, 2013. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski

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