Bank trade association UK Finance is urging people to be aware of criminals exploiting Covid-19 after figures revealed a sharp rise in impersonation scams in the first half of the year.
There were almost 15,000 impersonation scam cases reported by UK Finance members between January and June 2020, an increase of 84% compared to the same period last year. Among these, more than 8000 involved criminals impersonating the police or a bank, a year-on-year rise of 94%. More than 6000 involved fraudsters imitating other trusted organisations such as a utility company or government department, an increase of 74%.
However, the amount lost to these scams saw only a modest rise, up three per cent to £58 million.
UK Finance says intelligence suggests that the rise in impersonation scams is being partly driven by criminals exploiting Covid-19. These scams include fraudsters sending emails or text messages pretending to be from government departments and offering grants related to Covid-19.
Katy Worobec, MD, economic crime, UK Finance, says: "Criminal gangs are ruthlessly exploiting this pandemic to commit fraud, so it’s vital we all work together to beat them.
"We are urging the public to remain vigilant against these vile scams and remember that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. Fraudsters will spend hours researching their victims, but they only need you to let your guard down for a minute.
"Always take a moment to stop and think if you receive a request to make a payment from someone claiming to be from an organisation you trust. Instead, contact the company or organisation directly using a known email or phone number, like the one on their official website."