Fraud is a serious crime and it’s evolving at an alarming rate in the UK. According to the latest stats from UK Finance, Brits lost a staggering £754 million to fraud in the first half of 2021, up 30% on the same period last year.
So, in the midst of rising fraud cases in the UK, what can you do to safeguard yourself? Let’s find out.
What’s the current fraud situation in the UK?
The pandemic has provided a fertile ground for criminals according to the latest fraud stats from UK Finance.
Covid-19 has accelerated fraud in the UK to a level that is now a ‘national security threat’. Criminals are coming up with increasingly innovative ways to scam their victims.
While the largest losses in previous years have involved bank cards, UK finance says that this year, criminals have focused on authorised push payment (APP) fraud. This involves the victim being tricked into authorising a payment into an account controlled by the criminal.
The data shows that losses from this type of fraud were up 71% in 2021, reaching £355.3 million. This surpassed the £261.7 million stolen through bank card fraud.
Among the most prevalent types of APP scams were impersonation scams. This is where criminals pose as financial institutions, government bodies or health officials to trick people out of their money. Losses from this type of scam were up 123%.
Losses from investment scams, in which criminals target investors promising high returns, increased 95%. And losses from romance scams, in which victims are persuaded to send money to people they’ve only met online and believe they are in a relationship with rose by 62%.
As people relied on online shopping during lockdown, another type of APP scam that saw an increase in activity was purchase scams. This is where victims shop and pay in advance (usually online) for something that never arrives.
The data shows that losses from purchase scams increased by 39%. This type of scam actually accounted for nearly half of all APP scam cases in the first half of 2021.
In total, £753.9 million was stolen from innocent consumers through fraud in the first half of 2021.
How can you stay safe from fraud?
No one wants to lose their hard-earned money to fraudsters. So, here are five useful tips to help you protect yourself.
1. Stick with trusted online retailers
Covid-19 has changed the way we shop. Many of us now shop online more than we do in person. Criminals have been quick to take advantage of this new trend.
Avoid shopping on unknown sites and stick to the most trusted and prominent ones. Watch out for any sites offering unreasonably cheap prices.
2. Use credit cards when paying for things online
Credit cards offer an extra layer of protection when shopping online.
Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, if you pay for something costing between £100 and £30,000 using a credit card, the card provider is equally liable if something goes wrong.
3. Check out companies to find out who you’re dealing with
A little online search can save you from a potential fraud incident.
If you receive an unsolicited offer via text, email or phone call that seems too good to be true, take a moment to check out the company behind it. Simply type the name of the company or product into a search engine alongside terms like ‘complaints’, ‘scam’ or ‘reviews’ and the results will soon tell you if there’s something dodgy going on.
If something seems off, trust your instincts and stay away.
4. Understand how your bank communicates with you
If you receive an email or text from your bank stating that you must click on a specific link and log in to your account to update your settings for security reasons, pause before you take any action. It is best to first call or contact your bank through official channels to ensure the email is credible.
Keep in mind that your bank will never ask for your personal or account information or even request that you update your details via email.
If you receive an email or text asking you to confirm a transaction you didn’t initiate, contact your bank immediately.
5. Monitor your credit report
Your credit report can work as an early fraud warning system by alerting you to any unfamiliar activity. For example, when checking your report, you’ll see if new credit or loan accounts have been opened in your name without your knowledge.
If you come across anything suspicious, contact the credit reference agency immediately. Also contact the credit or loan company so that investigations can start and any further damage can be limited.
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