Fraudsters exploit virus fears by ‘posing as banks, police and health service’

Fraudsters are exploiting the coronavirus outbreak to target victims online and by phone, according a leading finance industry body.

UK Finance has warned people to be aware of criminals using publicity around the pandemic to “pose as a genuine organisation, including banks, police officers, government, the World Health Organisation or other health service providers”.

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said: “We would urge the public to be vigilant against criminals using the publicity around the coronavirus as a chance to target their victims with fraudulent emails, phone calls, text messages or social media posts”.

It said criminals have used coronavirus as a cover story to attempt to get victims to “disclose personal or financial information or click on links that may contain malware”.

It comes after the National Cyber Security Centre said fraudsters were perpetrating a range of attacks related to the virus, including bogus emails.

The warning came as UK Finance said that the banking and finance industry prevented more than £1.8 billion worth of fraud in 2019, up 9% on the previous year.

Its latest Fraud: The Facts report also said that unauthorised losses due to fraud fell by 2% to £825 million for the year.

Meanwhile, fraud from authorised push payment scams, where customers are tricked into authorising a payment to an account controlled by a criminal, jumped by £102 million to £456 million for the year.

It said victims received £41 million in compensation for APP cases during the year, after the APP voluntary code was launched in May 2019 to support victims.

Ms Worobec added: “The banking and finance industry is taking action on all fronts to protect its customers from fraud and crack down on the criminal gangs responsible.

“The introduction of the voluntary code last May has meant more victims of authorised push payment fraud are receiving compensation, particularly in cases involving higher value losses and more sophisticated scams.

“However, criminal gangs are continuing to exploit online platforms to target customers directly and trick them into handing over their money or information.”