Over £1.3billion landed in the hands of criminals committing authorised and unauthorised fraud in 2021 amid rising calls for cross-sector collaboration to stall their advances.
The findings of UK Finance‘s latest fraud report underline the scale of fraud that continues to plague the UK economy, as well as how criminals took advantage of people’s doubts and fears during the pandemic to commit fraud, often by exploiting weaknesses outside of the banking system.
A total of over £1.3billion was stolen through fraud and scams in 2021: unauthorised fraud cost £730.4million and authorised push payment (APP) fraud took home £583.2million, with nearly 40 per cent of APP losses due to impersonation scams.
The banking and finance industry prevented a further £1.4billion of unauthorised fraud from getting into the hands of criminals.
Given that much of the fraud is initiated from criminal activity taking place through online and technology platforms, UK Finance has leveraged the results of its report to push for a greater sense of cross-sector action to mitigate fraud.
Reflecting on the findings of the report, Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, understands that although unauthorised fraud losses fell last year, the form of criminal activity remains “a major problem,” adding that “through the introduction of new measures such as strong customer authentication, coupled with continued investment in technology, the banking and finance industry prevents significant amounts of fraud from taking place.”
Worobec cites the rise of authorised fraud losses last year, with many now happening outside the immediate banking sector, as the perfect indicator for cross-sector collaboration, stating that “this is why we continue to call for other sectors to play a greater role in helping protect customers from the scourge of fraud.”
Pointing to the government’s soon-to-be-released Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, which would require overseas entities and their beneficiaries to account for unexplained wealth orders, Worobec describes the purpose of the Bill as “an important development” and one that “provides the opportunity for the government to give new powers on information sharing and tracking stolen money,” actively working to stop fraud early on.
Breakdown of 2021 fraud losses
This type of fraud occurs when the card holder’s details are used without their consent or knowledge, thus the account holder themselves does not provide authorisation and the transaction is carried out by a criminal.
Unauthorised financial fraud losses across payment cards, remote banking and cheques totalled £730.4million in 2021, a decrease of seven per cent compared to 2020.
Fortunately, there is legal protection for people who fall victim to unauthorised payment card fraud, with industry analysis indicating that customers are refunded in excess of 98 per cent of all confirmed cases.
APP fraud sees the customer being tricked into authorising a payment to an account controlled by a criminal.
In 2021, criminals impersonated a range of organisations such as the NHS, banks and government departments via phone calls, text messages, emails, fake websites and social media posts to trick people into handing over their personal and financial information; information they subsequently exploited to convince people into authorising a payment.
There were 195,996 incidents of APP scams in 2021 with gross losses of £583.2million. Of this figure, £214.8million was lost to impersonation scams, whereby criminals impersonate a range of organisations to trick people into giving away their personal and financial information. This was the largest category of APP losses.
Furthermore, £171.7million was lost to investment scams, the second largest category of APP losses.
There were 99,733 cases of purchase scams, which means this was the most common type of scam – accounting for 51 per cent of all cases – although total losses were £64.1million.
A total of £271.2million of losses were returned to victims of APP scams, accounting for 47 per cent of losses.
UK Finance also collects data on cases assessed under the APP voluntary code. As a subset of the total amount refunded above, £238.1million of losses were returned to victims under the APP code, accounting for 51 per cent of losses in these cases.