Phone scammers steal £130 million from victims in a single year

Phone scammers snatch £130m: Crooks posing as banks or delivery firms to con victims out of cash have netted a fortune this year, new figures show

  • UK Finance said impersonation fraud costs consumers almost £130 million 
  • Fraudsters claim to be from banks, delivery firms or the taxman to steal money
  • Phone users have been bombarded with thousands of scam text messages

Fraudsters pretending to be banks, delivery firms or the taxman have conned the public out of nearly £130million so far this year – a rise of more than double.

So-called ‘impersonation fraud’ sees scammers call or text people while pretending to be from a trusted organisation. Victims are then tricked into transferring cash – to protect their bank account from fraud, to pay tax or a fine, or to receive a supposed refund.

Figures released from banking trade body UK Finance reveal that in the first six months of 2021, losses from impersonation fraud have more than doubled to £129.4million compared to the same period last year.

Figures released from UK Finance said cyber criminals have cost consumers almost £130m during the first six months of the year

Even Jim Harra, chief executive of the HMRC has been targeted by text message criminals 

Birmingham drama student Emmeline Hartley was ‘scammed out of every penny’ earlier this year when she received a text asking her to pay a £2.99 postage fee.

After paying the charge, she received a call from a scammer pretending to be from the Barclays fraud unit who told her she had been scammed and convinced her to move her remaining £1,000. 

Phones have been bombarded with millions of texts and calls from criminals during the pandemic. Even Jim Harra, chief executive of HMRC, said he had been targeted in a call from someone pretending to be the taxman.

Earlier this year, Money Mail revealed how scammers pump out thousands of text message scams to random numbers using cheap technology available on Chinese websites.

UK Finance also said that one in four people found it hard to say ‘no’ to requests for information from strangers on the phone.

It added that there were 33,115 impersonation fraud cases in the first six months of this year – more than twice the 14,947 reported over the same period in 2020 when £57.9million was stolen.

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