Welcome to Great Britain, the bank scam capital of the world

  • Scammers Steal $ 1 Billion In Just Six Months – Industry Data
  • Tech giants in the spotlight as crooks take advantage of social media

LONDON, Oct. 14 (Reuters) – It was an email offering a discount on an electric toothbrush that sparked the string of events that ruined Anna’s life.

Within minutes of entering her card details, she received a call from her bank telling her that fraudulent transactions were in progress. The next day, Robert Clayton of the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority called to say they were prosecuting the criminals responsible, but his savings were in jeopardy.

There was no toothbrush, however. No fraud department, no Robert Clayton. They were all part of a scam to gradually siphon off a lifetime’s savings from Anna, and within weeks the plot had been successful, to the tune of around 200,000 pounds ($ 270,000).

“I am still in shock, the guilt and shame are impossible to convey,” said the 78-year-old widower from central England, who did not want his full name used in this story.

She is among thousands who have seen their savings wiped out this year by an unprecedented wave of online banking fraud that has hit Britain, where you are more likely to be a victim of online fraud than any other. crime.

The country is the global epicenter of such attacks, according to five of Britain’s biggest banks and more than a dozen security experts who said crooks were buying bundles of consumers’ personal data on the darknet to target the number. record of online purchases and banking transactions since the pandemic.

The country’s lightning-fast payment infrastructure, relatively light fraud-related crime policing, and its use of English, the world’s most widely used language, have also made it a global test bed. ideal for scams, added banks and specialists.

A UK record £ 754million ($ 1 billion) was stolen in the first six months of this year, up 30% from the same period in 2020, according to industry body data UK Finance banking, and over 60% compared to 2017, when it started compiling the numbers.

This represents a per capita fraud rate about three times that seen in the United States in 2020, according to a Reuters calculation from UK Finance and the latest available data from the Federal Trade Commission.

“The most sophisticated fraud tends to start in the UK, then move two years later to the US, then around the world,” said Ayelet Biger-Levin, vice president of product strategy at the US cybersecurity company BioCatch, which provides fraud technology to banks.

“Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen more fraudulent attacks than we have seen in any other year in history. Data breaches have also accelerated, so there’s a lot more ‘personal information that criminals can take advantage of. “


Unlike the simple email scams of the past claiming to be from oil princes or barons seeking your help to transfer their millions, the modern bank scam can be sophisticated, multistep, and extremely convincing.

“We have seen cases where the scammer talked to someone for three or four years like someone else before scamming them with a large sum of money,” said Brian Dilley, group director for the prevention of economic crime in Britain’s largest. Lloyds bank.

Deena Karia, another scam victim, told Reuters how she lost 10,000 pounds in early February after buying a seemingly safe bond purportedly issued by Credit Suisse and apparently listed on price comparison site MoneySuperMarket.

After filling out a form on the website and receiving a call from a staff member, she called them back at the number listed on the website to verify that the phone number was legitimate, performed additional checks on the deposit, and continued to invest.

Karia, who is originally from outside London, is still not sure exactly how her money was stolen, but believes the crooks may have created a fake website mimicking MoneySuperMarket.

On February 15, the real MoneySuperMarket warned against crooks rigging its website and impersonating its staff. A spokesperson for the company said it is working to remove these bogus websites and phone numbers, is working with the FCA to highlight cloned websites and report issues to police.

“I lost my dad not long ago, I take care of my mom and this money would have supported us for years,” said Karia.

Barclays, her bank, only refunded half the money, saying she could have done more to protect herself.

“We have our deepest sympathy for Miss Karia who was the victim of an investment scam and as the matter is currently under investigation by the Financial Ombudsman Service, we are awaiting the conclusion of their review”, Barclays said.


The government’s National Economic Crime Center (NECC) agrees with the banking industry’s assessment that fraud poses a threat to UK security.

“This is taking on an already huge scale,” said Chris Reed, head of fraud threats at NECC, who he said met at least monthly with bank bosses, technology executives and telecommunications companies to assess and respond threats.

The UK’s Faster Payments network, which allows transfers between bank accounts to settle instantly rather than within hours or days like in the US and other developed banking markets, means criminals can quickly embezzle funds.

“The faster payment system facilitated faster fraud,” said Richard Emery, a fraud expert who advises Anna and 63 other scam victims whose average loss is 102,000 pounds.

Pay.UK, which operates the network, said the system supports the UK economy, consumers and businesses. He added that criminals were getting better at exploiting digitization and that he was working with industry and the regulator to tackle fraud.

While security experts and seasoned bankers have said many fraudulent attacks can be traced overseas – including India and West Africa – Britain is also increasingly exporting attacks .

Crimes such as authorized push payments (APPs) – where people are tricked into authorizing payment by a criminal posing as their bank or other trusted business – are proliferating around the world after starting as a largely British phenomenon.

The country ranks second in the world behind the United States as a source of automated robot attacks, the fastest growing type of fraud attack in the world, according to data from LexisNexis Risk Solutions, a company financial crime analysis.

Bot attacks see criminals using a high volume of stolen credentials to invade a website, allowing them to create new accounts or access existing accounts.

“It’s common to say that the fraud threat is imported into the UK, and I don’t think that warrants analysis,” NECC’s Reed said. “There is an important link in the UK with a lot of frauds, as our operational experience shows.”


British banks – which often foot the compensation bill when people get ripped off – are trying to respond.

HSBC, which operates in the Americas and Asia, hired more than 300 people in one year to support its anti-fraud operations in its home market and increased its annual spend by 40% to keep up with an “exponential” number of affected customers, the bank told Reuters.

“The UK is the hotbed of fraudster activity. Currently the UK accounts for around 80% of our global personal fraud losses,” he said.

Lloyds said it has invested £ 100million in its defenses over the past two years, while rival NatWest has 10% of its workforce – or 6,000 people – dedicated to fighting financial crime. The TSB has hired an additional 100 employees to help victims of fraud over the past year.

But lenders are also pressuring the government to ensure that social media platforms, where they say some attacks come from, share the burden. British lawmakers last month told bosses of Facebook, Google, Amazon and eBay they needed to fight fraud more.

Reed of the NECC said another problem was that only 1% of police resources were spent on fighting fraud, despite accounting for more than a third of all crime in England and Wales.

“I won’t hide the fact that the resources for the response are completely out of step with the scale and gravity of the threat. We have a mountain to climb.”

This means that criminals are bold enough to target people like Anna, who has little hope of getting her savings back.

The fraudsters had told her to transfer her “risky” money to an account on a cryptocurrency platform they had emptied – while isolating her from her family by insisting on secrecy and guiding her through it. way of responding to skeptical bank officials.

“They knew the name of my financial advisor, they were quite convincing as FCA staff,” she said. “And they told me I couldn’t tell anyone about the investigation as it would hinder their efforts to catch the crooks.”

($ 1 = 0.7327 pounds)

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

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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