Finance bosses warn fraud poses ‘major threat’ as bank customers lose £500m in first half of 2018

Fraudsters took more than £500m from UK bank accounts in the first half of the year, according to UK

Fraudsters took more than £500m from UK bank accounts in the first half of the year, according to UK Finance. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

UK bank customers lost more than £500m to scammers in the first half of 2018, according to new figures.

Trade body UK Finance said £145m was lost through authorised push payment (APP) scams, where people are tricked into authorising a payment to another account, while the remaining £358m was lost due to unauthorised fraud, where the transaction is carried out by a third party and is not authorised by the account holder.

Most victims of unauthorised fraud receive a full refund – but those duped by APP scams currently have no legal protection to cover their losses.

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UK Finance said £30.9m of the £145m lost through APP scams this year had been returned to customers.

The most prevalent type of APP scams – accounting for almost two-thirds of reported cases in the first six months of the year – were purchase scams, where victims pay in advance for a product or service, such as a car or a holiday rental, which is not received or does not exist.

This type of fraud often takes place online, through auction websites or social media.

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There were also 3,866 reported cases of impersonation scams, where the criminal claims to be from the police, bank or another organisation in order to trick the victim into transferring money.

The nature of these scams means victims are often persuaded to transfer significant sums of money, with the average loss in police and bank impersonation fraud amounting to £11,402.

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said the figures showed scams posed a 'major threat' to the UK.

'The criminals behind it target their victims indiscriminately and the proceeds go on to fund terrorism, people smuggling and drug trafficking, whether or not the individual is refunded,' she said.

She added that the industry was taking action to tackle the problem, by investing in security systems and cyber defences, as well as bringing in new standards to ensure victims get support from their payment providers.

The organisation said financial institutions had prevented two-thirds of unauthorised fraud in the first half of 2018.

But Gareth Shaw, money expert at consumer group Which?, said banks' efforts had been 'woefully insufficient'.

'Banks... have not done enough to protect their customers, who continue to lose life-changing sums of money to ever-more sophisticated crooks,' he said.

'The Payment Systems Regulator has rightly committed to introducing a reimbursement scheme for victims. It's about time that banks step up and properly compensate customers who have lost money through no fault of their own.'