Fraud has long been the crime you’re most likely to fall victim to, but it has now become near ubiquitous. A recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) report shows that an estimated 5.1 million fraud offences were committed in England and Wales in the year to September 2021 – up 36% in two years. Fraud now accounts for 40% of all crimes recorded. The UK was already among the worst countries in Europe in terms of exposure to scams and fraud before the pandemic compounded the problem. Scammers quickly exploited our fear and confusion, whether by impersonating the government to offer fake Covid-19 grants, setting up fake NHS websites to steal card details, or posing as delivery companies to target online shoppers stuck at home during national lockdowns. These tactics aren’t going away any time soon, but they’re by no means the only way scammers are targeting victims. Here we reveal the 12 emerging threats we all need to watch out for.
Shopping and investment scams dominate Which? Money has analysed 14 months of data collated by Action Fraud, the fraud and cybercrime reporting centre. From November 2020 to December 2021, individual victims lodged a total of 448,838 fraud reports. Between them, they lost £1.9bn.
The truth is that anyone is fair game. Criminals have realised they don’t need to focus on breaching bank security systems when they can take aim at a more vulnerable target – banks’ customers. In 2021, cases of bank transfer fraud overtook card fraud for the first time. These scams often involve fraudsters posing as the police, banks, or any other legitimate firm to trick people into transferring money to an account they control.
Fraud has become the easy choice for criminals because offences are heavily under reported and convictions are low.
While we wait for law enforcement to play catch-up, you can take steps to protect yourself – and that starts with treating all unsolicited contact with caution. Above all, the message is to take your time – or ‘Take 5’, as the banking industry puts it – to stop and think before you hand over money or information, to challenge any requests, and to protect your account by contacting your bank and the police if you think you’ve fallen for a scam.