New figures have revealed that more than £1.3 billion was stolen last year by con artists. Some of this staggering amount was the result of authorised push payment scams (APP). This is when victims are tricked into making a payment.
This type of fraud rose sharply in 2021, with the amount lost to fraudsters reaching a shocking £583.2 million – a 39% increase on 2020. The research, conducted by UK Finance, a banking industry organisation, also found that there were 195,996 incidents of APP fraud last year. This is up 27% on the previous year.
With a larger number of people spending longer on the internet, doing more online shopping than ever and working from home, victims have become more susceptible to such scams.
Nearly 40% of the APP fraud losses were the result of impersonation scams. In these such scams, criminals pretend to be a trusted contact, such as a bank or charity organisation. They trick victims into transferring their money into a new account. This money is then stolen, with many people left in the lurch. In 2021 alone, a whopping £214.8 million was stolen using these methods.
Fraudsters undertaking impersonation scams also used the pandemic to their advantage, impersonating the NHS and government organisations in order to steal people’s hard-earned money. Victims were lured in through scam texts, emails, phone calls and social media posts, with some criminals going as far as to create fake websites which look almost identical to official, trusted websites.
When it comes to investment scams, £171.7 million was stolen in total in 2021, an unbelievable 57% jump compared to 2020. This makes investment scams the second largest category of APP fraud losses.
Many victims also had their money stolen through purchase scams. This is when someone is tricked into buying something which doesn’t actually exist. This is an extremely common type of fraud. You may well have fallen victim to a scam such as this in the past. Cases of purchase scams were up 18% in 2021 compared to the previous year, with almost 100,000 people falling victim. The losses are estimated to have reached £64.1 million, an increase of 25% on 2020.
Romance scams soared by an astonishing 73% in 2021. This type of scam happens when a criminal befriends a victim and enters into a romantic relationship with them. The main goal is to ask the victim for money. Victims lost £30.9 million through romance scams last year.
Overall, only £271.2 million was returned to victims of APP fraud – this accounts for 47% of total losses.