Criminals in Great Britain are exploiting people’s COVID-19-related anxiety to carry out an increasing number of online and technology-aided scams.
That’s according to a report released on Thursday (March 25) by the finance and banking website UK Finance, which found that impersonation scams, in which scammers pretend to be trusted government agencies and delivery companies to get victims to give them their money, nearly doubled in 2020 to 39,364.
Last year also saw a 32 percent increase in investment scam cases, which are promoted through online search ads offering greater than average returns, and a 38 percent rise in romance scams carried out through online dating.
Authorized push payment fraud losses came to £479 million in the U.K. last year, a 5 percent increase from 2019, the report said. Banks and other financial institutions (FIs) were able to return £206 million of those losses to victims, more than 75 percent more than what they returned the previous year.
UK Finance called on British authorities to include fraud in the scope of the government’s proposed Online Safety Bill. “The banking industry has worked hard throughout the pandemic to protect customers from fraud and to go after the criminals behind it, with over £1.6 billion of fraud stopped in 2020,” said Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance. “However, we are seeing a worrying rise in online and technology-enabled scams that evade banks’ advanced security systems and use digital platforms to target victims directly, tricking them into giving away their money or information.”
Thursday’s report comes three days after the governor of the Bank of England called on the British government to introduce legislation that would force Big Tech companies to do a better job of policing fraudulent websites. The report also coincides with a similar warning this week from the Federal Trade Commission, which notes that pandemic-related scams have cost taxpayers roughly $382 million since the COVID-19 outbreak began