FINANCE INDUSTRY STOPS £1.4 BILLION IN ATTEMPTED FRAUD

  • Banks and card companies prevented £2 in every £3 of attempted unauthorised fraud in 2017.
  • Unauthorised fraud losses fell 5 per cent to £731.8 million in 2017.
  • New 2017 data shows £236.0 million lost to authorised push payment scams.
  • Deception and impersonation scams continue to be a key driver of both unauthorised and authorised fraud.
  • Finance industry calls for new information sharing powers to prevent more fraud.

Banks and card companies prevented £1,458.6 million in unauthorised financial fraud last year, equivalent to £2 in every £3 of attempted unauthorised fraud being stopped, the latest data from UK Finance shows.

In 2017, fraud losses on payment cards fell 8 per cent year-on-year to £566.0 million. At the same time, card spending increased by 7 per cent, meaning card fraud as a proportion of spending equates to 7.0p for every £100 spent – the lowest level since 2012. In 2016 the figure stood at 8.3p.

For the first time, annual data on losses due to authorised push payment scams (also known as APP or authorised bank transfer scams) has also been collated. A total of £236.0 million was lost through such scams in 2017.

The unauthorised fraud data on payment cards, remote banking and cheques for 2017 shows:

  • Combined total losses fell by 5 per cent to £731.8 million.
  • Losses due to unauthorised transactions on payment cards fell 8 per cent year-on-year to £566.0 million. The industry helped prevent £984.9 million in attempted unauthorised card fraud.
  • Losses due to unauthorised remote banking fraud totalled £156.1 million, a 14 per cent rise on 2016. Banks prevented £261.4 million of unauthorised remote banking fraud, 27 per cent more than last year.
  • Cheque fraud losses fell 28 per cent in 2017 to £9.8 million. This is the lowest annual total on record. £212.3 million of attempted unauthorised cheque fraud was prevented.
  • There were 1,910,490 reported cases of unauthorised financial fraud, a rise of 3 per cent compared to the year before.

The new authorised push payment scams data, collected for the first time in 2017, shows:

  • There were 43,875 reported cases of authorised push payment scams with a total value of £236.0 million. 88 per cent of this total were retail consumers, losing an average of £2,784, and the remainder were businesses who lost on average £24,355 per case.
  • Financial providers were able to return £60.8 million (26%) of the authorised push payment scam losses in 2017.

Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, said:

“Fraud is an issue that affects the whole of society, and one which everyone must come together to tackle. The finance industry is committed to playing its part – investing in advanced security systems to protect customers, introducing new standards on how banks respond to scam victims, and working with the Joint Fraud Taskforce to deter and disrupt criminals and better trace, freeze and return stolen funds.

“We are also supporting the Payment Systems Regulator on its complex work on authorised push payment scams, providing the secretariat for its new steering group. It’s a challenging timetable, but it is important that we get it right to stop financial crime and for the benefit of customers.”

The finance industry is responding to the ongoing threat of all types of fraud and scams by:

  • Helping to prevent customers being duped by criminals by raising awareness of how to stay safe through the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, in conjunction with the Home Office.
  • Working with government and law enforcement to deter and disrupt criminals and better trace, freeze and return stolen funds, while calling for new powers on information sharing to allow banks to share data to detect and prevent financial crime better.
  • Implementing new standards to ensure those who have fallen victim to fraud or scams get the help they need, including around-the-clock availability of fraud teams, to make it easier and better for the customer, and, where possible, improve the likelihood of their funds being recovered. UK Finance will also be the secretariat for the PSR’s new steering group on authorised push payment scams2.
  • Working with government on making possible legislative changes to account opening procedures to help the industry act more proactively on suspicion of fraud and prevent criminals from accessing financial systems.
  • Rolling out the Banking Protocol – a ground-breaking rapid response scheme through which branch staff can alert police and Trading Standards to suspected frauds taking place – to every police force area in the UK. In 2017, while it was still being introduced across the country, the Protocol prevented £13.3 million of fraud and led to 129 arrests.
  • Sponsoring the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit5, a specialist police unit which tackles the organised criminal groups responsible for financial fraud and scams. This has led to a combined value in savings and disruptions in criminal activity of close to £30 million in 2017.
  • Exploring new ways to track stolen funds moved between multiple bank accounts.

To help everyone stay safe from fraud and scams, Take Five to Stop Fraud urges customers to follow the campaign advice:

  • A genuine bank or organisation will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, full password or to move money to another account. Only give out your personal or financial details to use a service that you have given your consent to, that you trust and that you are expecting to be contacted by.
  • Don’t be tricked into giving a fraudster access to your personal or financial details. Never automatically click on a link in an unexpected email or text.
  • Always question uninvited approaches in case it’s a scam. Instead, contact the company directly using a known email or phone number.

Tony Blake, Senior Fraud Prevention Officer at the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit, said:

“With criminals using social engineering to target people and businesses directly, it’s vital that everyone follows the advice of the Take Five campaign. Always stop and think if you are ever asked for your personal or financial details. Remember, no bank or genuine organisation will ever contact you out of the blue and ask you to transfer money to another account.”

Unauthorised fraud

In an unauthorised fraudulent transaction, the account holder does not provide authorisation for the payment to proceed and the transaction is carried out by a third-party.

Authorised fraud

In an authorised push payment (APP) scam, the account holder themselves authorises the payment to be made to another account. If a customer authorises the payment themselves, current legislation means that they have no legal protection to cover them for losses – which is different for an unauthorised transaction.

Banks will always endeavour to help customers recover money stolen through an authorised push payment scam but customers typically only approach their bank after the payment has been processed, once they realise they have been duped. By this time the criminal has often withdrawn the stolen funds and the customer’s money has gone. Alongside the extensive work already underway through the Joint Fraud Taskforce, UK Finance is also currently working with the Payment Systems Regulator on its proposals to tackle these scams.

Behind the data

Fraud intelligence points towards criminals’ use of social engineering tactics as a key driver of both unauthorised and authorised fraud losses. Social engineering is a method through which criminals manipulate people into divulging personal or financial details, or into transferring money directly to them, for example thorough impersonation scams and deception.

In an impersonation scam, a fraudster contacts a customer by phone, text message or email pretending to represent a trusted organisation, such as a bank, the police, a utility company or a government department. Under this guise, the criminal then convinces their victim into following their demands, sometimes making several separate approaches as part of one scam.

Data breaches also continue to be a major contributor to fraud losses. Criminals use stolen data to commit fraud directly, for example card details are used to make unauthorised purchases online or personal details used to apply for credit cards. Stolen personal and financial information is also used by criminals to target individuals in impersonation and deception scams, and can add apparent authenticity to their approach.