© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man holds a laptop with an electronic symbol displayed on it in this illustrative photo taken May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pembel
By Lawrence White and Ian Withers
LONDON (Reuters) – It was an email offering a discount on an electric toothbrush that started the chain of events that ruined Anna’s life.
Within minutes of entering her card details, she received a call from her bank informing her of her fraudulent transaction. The next day, Robert Clayton of the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority called to say they were going after the criminals responsible, but that her savings were at risk.
But there was no toothbrush. No fraud department, no Robert Clayton. They were all part of a scam to gradually withdraw Anna’s savings, and within a few weeks the plot succeeded, to the tune of about £200,000 ($270,000).
“I am still in shock… the guilt and shame are impossible to convey,” said a 78-year-old widow from central England, who did not wish to use her full name in this story.
She is one of thousands of people who have seen their savings vanish this year due to an unprecedented wave of internet banking fraud that has hit Britain, where she is more likely to be a victim of internet fraud than any other crime.
The country is a global hotspot for such attacks, according to five of Britain’s largest banks and more than a dozen security experts who said fraudsters were buying sets of consumers’ personal details on the dark web to target index shopping and online banking. since the epidemic.
Banks and professionals added that the country’s ultra-fast payments infrastructure, relatively light police for fraud-related crimes, as well as its use of the world’s most widely spoken English also made it an ideal global testing base for frauds.
A British record of 754 million pounds ($1 billion) was stolen in the first six months of this year, up 30% from the same period in 2020, according to data from banking industry body UK Finance, and more than 60% from 2017. When I started collecting numbers.
That’s three times the per capita fraud rate seen in the US in 2020, according to a Reuters calculation from UK Finance and the latest available data from the Federal Trade Commission.
said Ayelet Beger-Levin, vice president of product strategy at US-based cybersecurity firm BioCatch, which provides anti-fraud technology to banks.
“In the past 12 months, we’ve seen more fraud attacks than in any other year in history. Data breaches have also accelerated, so there is a lot of personal information that criminals can take advantage of.”
The money would have supported us.
Unlike simple email-based scams of the past claiming to be from oil lords or barons seeking your help to transfer their millions, modern bank scams can be complex, multi-stage, and highly convincing.
said Brian Daley, director of the economic crime prevention group at Britain’s largest, Lloyd’s Bank (LON:).
Another fraud victim, Dina Karia, told Reuters how she lost £10,000 in early February after buying a safe bond allegedly issued by the company. Swiss credit (SIX 🙂 It appears to be listed on the price comparison site MoneySuperMarket.
After filling out a form on the website and receiving a call from a staff member there, I called them back at the number listed on the website to verify that the phone number was legitimate, did further checks on the bond and continued investing.
Kariya, from outside London, still doesn’t know exactly how her money was stolen, but she believes the scammers may have created a fake MoneySuperMarket sim.
The real MoneySuperMarket warned on February 15 of scammers faking its website and impersonating its employees. A spokesperson for the company said it is working to remove fake websites and phone numbers, and is working with the FCA to highlight cloned sites and report problems to police.
“I lost my father not so long ago, I take care of my mother and that money was going to help us for years,” Kariya said.
Barclays (LON :), her bank, only refunded half the amount, saying she could have done more to protect herself.
“We have every sympathy for Miss Karia, who was the victim of an investment fraud, and as the case is currently under investigation by the Financial Complaints Service, we await the conclusion of their review,” Barclays said.
Quick payments, quick scam?
The government’s National Economic Crime Center (NECC) agrees with the banking sector’s assessment that fraud is a threat to British security.
“It’s growing from a really massive scale,” said Chris Reed, NECC’s fraud threat leader, who said he meets at least every month with bank chiefs, tech executives and telecom companies to assess and respond to threats.
Britain’s faster payments network, which allows transfers between bank accounts to settle instantly rather than within hours or days as in the US and other developed banking markets, means criminals can steal money quickly.
“The faster payment system facilitated a faster scam,” said Richard Emery, a fraud expert who advises Anna and 63 other scam victims with an average loss of 102,000 pounds.
Pay.UK, which runs the network, said the system supports the British economy, consumers and businesses. She added that criminals are getting better at exploiting digitization and that she is working with the industry and regulator to combat fraud.
While senior security and banking experts have said that many fraud attacks can be traced abroad – including from India and West Africa – Britain is also increasingly exporting attacks.
Crimes such as Authorized Payment Payments (APP) – where people are tricked into allowing a payment by a criminal pretending to be a bank or other trusted company – are spreading globally after it began as a largely British phenomenon.
The country ranks second in the world after the United States as a source of bot attacks, and is the fastest growing type of fraud attack in the world, according to data from LexisNexis Risk Solutions, a financial crime analysis firm.
Bot attacks see criminals use a large volume of stolen identity credentials to bypass a website, allowing them to create new accounts or access existing ones.
NECC’s Reid said: “It’s common to say that the fraud threat was imported into the UK, and I don’t think that involves analysis.” “There is a high correlation in the UK with a lot of scams, and our practical experience shows that.”
HSBC: UK fraught with fraud
British banks – which often pick up the compensation bill when people are being scammed – are trying to fight back.
HSBC, which operates in the Americas and Asia, is hiring more than 300 employees a year to support anti-fraud operations in its home market and increasing annual spending by 40% to handle an “exponential” number of affected customers, the bank told Reuters.
“The UK is a hotbed of activity for fraudsters. The UK currently accounts for around 80% of global personal fraud losses,” she said.
Lloyd’s said it has invested £100m in its defenses over the past two years, while rival NatWest has 10% of its workforce – of 6,000 people – dedicated to fighting financial crime. TSB hired an additional 100 employees to support fraud victims last year.
But the lenders are also pressing the government to create platforms on social media, where they say some attacks arise, sharing the burden. British lawmakers told chiefs at Facebook (NASDAQ), Google (NASDAQ), Amazon (NASDAQ 🙂 and eBay (NASDAQ 🙂 last month that they need to do more to combat fraud.
Another problem, NECC’s Reid said, is that only 1% of police resources are dedicated to fighting fraud, despite it making up more than a third of crime in England and Wales.
“I will not hide from the fact that the provision of resources for the response is not entirely in line with the scale and severity of the threat. We have a mountain to climb.”
This means criminals are encouraged to target people like Anna, who has little hope of getting her savings back.
The scammers asked her to transfer her “at-risk” cash to an account on a cryptocurrency exchange that they emptied — while isolating her from her family by emphasizing confidentiality and training her on how to respond to skeptical bank officials.
“They knew the name of my financial advisor, and they were quite persuasive as FCA employees,” she said. They told me that I could not tell anyone about the investigation because it would damage their efforts to catch the fraudsters.
(dollar = 0.7327 pounds)