#COVID19 Pushes More Fraud Online

Fraudsters are increasingly moving online to cash-in on the COVID-19 pandemic, although overall unauthorized fraud losses dropped in the first half of 2020, according to UK Finance.

The banking industry body’s 2020 Half Year Fraud Update revealed some promising headline findings.

Unauthorized fraud losses were down 8% year-on-year to £374.3m, while authorized push payment (APP) losses remained static at around £208m, although the number of APP cases jumped 15% over the period.

However, the bigger picture is that cyber-criminals are turning away from traditional methods of fraud such as contactless (down 20%) and cheque (down 78%) due to the reduced number of face-to-face transactions during the pandemic.

As a result, more fraud is migrating online in phishing emails and texts and unsolicited scam phone calls designed to harvest personal and financial details. These social engineering efforts may include impersonation of government officials, banking staff, airlines and travel agencies, and IT and software providers, UK Finance said.

The bad news is that the impact of these changes in fraud patterns is yet to be fully revealed, as the stolen data in many cases has yet to be used in follow-on fraud.

Elsewhere, UK Finance claimed that e-commerce fraud in the first half of the year, at £183m, was largely the same as in 1H 2019. However, remote banking fraud losses soared 21% to reach £80m, while the number of cases jumped 59% year-on-year to nearly 30,000.

UK Finance said it has also seen a rise in investment scams, with FCA-regulated firms often spoofed in advertising on search engines and social media sites. There’s also been a spike in purchase scams, including sale of counterfeit or non-existent PPE and home testing kits.

UK Finance managing director of economic crime, Katy Worobec, urged the public to stop and think before responding to unsolicited messages or calls.

“Criminals have ruthlessly adapted to this pandemic with scams exploiting the rise in people working from home and spending time online. These range from investment scams promoted on social media and search engines to the use of phishing emails and fake websites to harvest people’s data,” she added.

“The banking industry is working hard to protect customers from this threat, with almost £7 in £10 of fraud prevented in the first half of this year, but we need the public to remain vigilant against scams and remember that criminals are experts at exploiting events like COVID-19 to impersonate trusted organizations.”

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