FILE PHOTO: Some of the artwork details are seen on a large scale sample of the new twenty pound note during the launch event at the Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate, Britain, October 10, 2019. Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo - RC22FO9VDAXR

Welcome to Britain, the bank scam capital of the world

LONDON, Oct 14 (Reuters) – It was an e-mail providing a reduction on an electrical toothbrush that started the sequence of occasions that ruined Anna’s life.

Inside minutes of getting into her card particulars, she bought a name from her bank telling her fraudulent transactions have been being made. The following day Robert Clayton from Britain’s Monetary Conduct Authority referred to as to say they have been pursuing the criminals accountable however that her financial savings have been in danger.

There was no toothbrush, although. No fraud division, no Robert Clayton. They have been all half of a scam to step by step siphon off Anna’s life financial savings, and inside a number of weeks the plot had succeeded, to the tune of about 200,000 kilos ($270,000).

“I am still in shock, the guilt and shame are impossible to convey,” stated the 78-year-old widow from central England, who didn’t need her full title to be used on this story.

She is one of hundreds of individuals who have seen financial savings swept away this 12 months by an unprecedented wave of on-line bank fraud hitting Britain, the place you are extra doubtless to be a sufferer of on-line fraud than some other crime.

The nation is the international epicentre for such assaults, in accordance to 5 of the greatest British banks and greater than a dozen safety consultants who stated scammers have been shopping for up batches of customers’ private particulars on the darkish web to goal the file numbers buying and banking on-line since the pandemic.

The nation’s super-fast funds infrastructure, comparatively mild policing of fraud-related crime, plus its use of the world’s most generally used language English, additionally made it a super international take a look at mattress for scams, the banks and specialists added.

A British file of 754 million kilos ($1 billion)was stolen in the first six months of this 12 months, up 30% from the similar interval in 2020, in accordance to information from banking business physique UK Finance, and up greater than 60% from 2017, when it started compiling the figures.

That represents a per capita fraud fee roughly triple that seen in the United States in 2020, in accordance to a Reuters calculation from UK Finance and the newest obtainable Federal Commerce Fee information.

“The most sophisticated fraud tends to start in the UK, and then move two years later to the U.S. and then around the world,” stated Ayelet Biger-Levin, vp of product technique at U.S.-based cybersecurity agency BioCatch, which offers anti-fraud expertise to banks.

“In the last 12 months we have seen more fraud attacks than we had seen in any other year in history. Data breaches have also accelerated, so there’s a lot more personal information out there that criminals can take advantage of.”


In contrast to easy email-based scams of the previous purporting to be from princes or oil barons looking for your assist to shift their hundreds of thousands, the trendy bank scam may be subtle, multi-phased and intensely convincing.

“We’ve seen some cases where the fraudster has been talking to somebody for three or four years as someone else before they actually scam them out of a large amount of money,” stated Brian Dilley, group director for financial crime prevention at Britain’s greatest bank Lloyds.

Deena Karia, one other scam sufferer, informed Reuters how she misplaced 10,000 kilos in early February after shopping for a seemingly protected bond purportedly issued by Credit score Suisse and apparently listed on price-comparison web site MoneySuperMarket.

After filling out a kind on the web site and receiving a name from a workers member there, she referred to as them again on the quantity listed on the web site to test the telephone quantity was reputable, made additional checks about the bond and went on to make investments.

Karia, from outer London, nonetheless doesn’t know precisely how her cash was stolen, however believes the scammers could have created a pretend web site mimicking MoneySuperMarket.

The real MoneySuperMarket warned on Feb. 15 of crooks faking its web site and impersonating its workers. A spokesperson for the firm stated it’s working to take down such pretend web sites and telephone numbers, working with the FCA to spotlight cloned web sites and reporting points to the police.

“I lost my Dad not long ago, I’m caring for my mother and that money would have supported us for years,” Karia stated.

Barclays, her bank, has refunded solely half the cash, saying she might have executed extra to defend herself.

“We have every sympathy with Miss Karia who was the victim of an investment scam and as the case is currently being investigated by the Financial Ombudsman Service, we await the conclusion of their review,” Barclays stated.


The federal government’s Nationwide Financial Crime Centre (NECC) agrees with the banking sector’s evaluation that fraud represents a risk to British safety.

“It is growing from an already enormous scale,” stated Chris Reed, fraud risk lead at NECC, which he stated was assembly a minimum of each month with bank bosses, expertise executives and telecoms corporations to assess and reply to threats.

Britain’s Quicker Funds’ community, which permits transfers between bank accounts to settle immediately somewhat than in hours or days as in the United States and different developed banking markets, means criminals can quickly spirit away funds.

“The faster payment system has facilitated faster fraud,” stated Richard Emery, a fraud professional who’s advising Anna and 63 different scam victims whose common loss is 102,000 kilos.

Pay.UK, which runs the community, stated the system supported the British financial system, customers and companies. It added that criminals have been getting higher at exploiting digitisation and that it was working with the business and regulator to battle fraud.

Whereas safety consultants and senior bankers stated many fraud assaults could possibly be traced abroad – together with from India and West Africa – Britain can be more and more exporting assaults.

Crimes resembling authorised push funds (APP) – the place persons are tricked into authorising a fee by a felony posing as their bank or different trusted firm – are proliferating globally after having began off as a largely UK phenomenon.

The nation ranks second in the world behind the United States as a supply of automated bot assaults, the fastest-growing kind of fraud assault in the world, in accordance to information from LexisNexis Danger Options, a monetary crime evaluation agency.

Bot assaults see criminals use a excessive quantity of stolen identification credentials to overrun an internet site, permitting them to arrange new accounts or entry current ones.

“It’s popular to say the fraud threat is imported into the UK, and I don’t think that bears analysis,” stated NECC’s Reed. “There is a significant UK nexus to a lot of fraud, our operational experience is showing that.”


Britain’s banks – which frequently decide up the compensation invoice when persons are scammed – try to reply.

HSBC, which has operations in the Americas and Asia, has employed greater than 300 workers in a 12 months to assist its anti-fraud operations in its dwelling market and elevated annual spending by 40% to take care of an “exponential” quantity of clients affected, the bank informed Reuters.

“The UK is the hotbed of activity for fraudsters. Currently the UK accounts for about 80% of our global personal fraud losses,” it stated.

Lloyds stated it had invested 100 million kilos in its defences over the previous two years, whereas rival NatWest has 10% of its workforce – amounting to 6,000 individuals – devoted to combating monetary crime. TSB has employed 100 further workers to assist fraud victims in the final 12 months.

However lenders are additionally urgent the authorities to make social media platforms, the place they are saying some assaults originate, share the burden. British lawmakers informed bosses at Fb, Google, Amazon and eBay final month that they wanted to do extra fight fraud.

The NECC’s Reed stated one other drawback was that simply 1% of policing assets have been devoted to combating fraud, regardless of it making up over a 3rd of all crime in England and Wales.

“I won’t hide away from the fact that resourcing of the response is completely out of step with the scale and seriousness of the threat. We’ve got a mountain to climb.”

Which means criminals are emboldened to goal individuals like Anna, who has little hope of recovering her financial savings.

The fraudsters had informed her to shift her “at risk” money to an account on a cryptocurrency platform that they emptied – whereas isolating her from household by stressing secrecy and training her on how to reply to sceptical bank officers.

“They knew the name of my financial adviser, they were utterly convincing as FCA staff,” she stated. “And they told me I could not tell anyone about the investigation as it would damage their efforts to catch the crooks.”

($1 = 0.7327 kilos)

(This story corrects to ‘widow’ from ‘widower’ in fourth paragraph)

Reporting By Lawrence White and Iain Withers; Enhancing by Rachel Armstrong and Pravin Char

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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