© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: This illustration was taken May 13th 2017, and shows a man holding a laptop as cybercode is projected onto him. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
Lawrence White, Iain Withers
LONDON, (Reuters) – It was an email offering a discounted electric toothbrush. This was the beginning of Anna’s tragic life.
After entering her card information, her bank called her to inform her that fraudulent transactions had been made. Robert Clayton of the Financial Conduct Authority in Britain called her next day, advising that they were seeking out criminals and that her savings could be at risk.
However, there was no toothbrush. No fraud department, no Robert Clayton. The scam was to siphon Anna’s life savings. It took only a few weeks for the scheme to work.
The 78-year old widower from central England said, “I’m still in shock. The guilt and shame are difficult to convey.” She did not wish her full name be included in the story.
It is among thousands of victims of fraud online that have had their savings stolen in Britain this year.
Five of Britain’s largest banks as well as more than 12 security professionals claim that the nation is the worldwide epicenter for these attacks. They claimed scammers had been buying consumer details via the dark web to take advantage of record online transactions and target consumers who have been shopping online and banking since the pandemic.
Its fast payments infrastructure and relatively low policing for fraud-related crimes made the country a perfect global testing ground for scams. Specialists from banks also noted that the country has a very high level of English proficiency.
The British record for the most stolen records was 754,000,000 pounds (1 billion), which is 30% more than the period in 2020 according to UK Finance. It also represents an increase of over 60% since 2017, when the data began being compiled.
According to Reuters calculations from UK Finance, and latest Federal Trade Commission data, this represents a fraud rate per capita that is roughly three times higher than the United States’ in 2020.
Ayelet BIGER-LEVI, vice president for product strategy of BioCatch (a U.S. cybersecurity company that provides anti-fraud technology and banking services), stated, “The most sophisticated fraud tends not to start in the UK and move two years later, to the U.S., and then to the rest of the world.”
“In just 12 months, there have been more fraud attacks than in any previous year.” Also, data breaches are increasing rapidly. Criminals now have access to a greater amount of personal information.
“MONEY WOULD’VE SUPPORTED US”
The modern scam is sophisticated and multi-phased, unlike the email-based frauds that were common in the past, which claimed to come from oil barons or princes looking to transfer their millions.
Brian Dilley (LON), group director for economic crimes prevention, Britain’s bank Lloyds.
Another victim of a scam, Deena Kari, claimed to Reuters that she had lost 10,000 Pounds in February when she bought a bond that appeared safe and was purportedly issued from the United States. Credit Suisse (SIX.) and appears to be listed on MoneySuperMarket, a price-comparison website.
After filling in a form online, and getting a call back from staff, she called the phone number on the site to verify that it was genuine, and then proceeded to invest.
Karia from London is still unsure how she lost her money. However, Karia believes that the fraudsters may have made a website that looks like MoneySuperMarket.
MoneySuperMarket warned of scammers faking its website, and impersonating employees on February 15th. According to a spokesperson, the company stated that it was working hard to remove fake websites and telephone numbers. It also works with the FCA and reports any problems to the police.
Karia explained, “I have lost my father not so long ago.
Barclays Her bank, (LON), has returned only half of her money. She claimed she could have done more for herself.
Barclays stated that they sympathize with Miss Karia, who was the victim in an investment fraud. The case is being investigated by Financial Ombudsman Service and we are waiting for the outcome.
FAST PAYMENTS, FAST FRAUD?
The National Economic Crime Centre of the Government (NECC) concurs with the assessment by banks that fraud poses a threat for British security.
Chris Reed (fraud threat lead at NECC), stated that fraud is on the rise and was being addressed at a minimum every month by bank executives, tech executives, and telecoms company leaders to evaluate and address threats.
The Faster Payments Network in Britain allows funds to be transferred instantly between accounts rather than being settled in days or hours as it does in America.
Richard Emery is a fraud expert and advises Anna as well as 63 scam victims who have lost an average of 102,000 pounds.
Pay.UK is the operator of the network. It said that it supports British consumers, businesses, and the economy. According to Pay.UK’s website, criminals are becoming more adept at digitisation. The company also stated it worked with regulators and the industry to prevent fraud.
Senior bankers and security professionals agree that fraud can be traced abroad. However, Britain continues to export more of these attacks.
Crimes such as authorised push payments (APP) – where people are tricked into authorising a payment by a criminal posing as their bank or other trusted company – are proliferating globally after having started off as a largely UK phenomenon.
According to LexisNexis Risk Solutions (a firm that analyzes financial crimes), the United States ranks second as the source of automated bot attack. The fastest growing type of fraud attack worldwide, it is the number two country in the world.
Bot attacks allow criminals to use large amounts of stolen identity credentials (e.g., to access or create new accounts) to attack websites.
Reed of NECC stated that it is common to believe the UK fraud threat was imported. However, he did not think this bears any analysis. Our operational experience shows that there is significant UK connection to fraud.
HSBC: UK HOTBED OF FAUD
Britain’s banks are responding to scammers by paying out the money.
HSBC has Americas and Asia operations. The bank said it has employed more than 300 people in a single year in support of its anti-fraud efforts in its home country. It also increased its annual spending by 40% in order to address an “expanding” number customers.
The UK is a hotbed for fraudsters. According to it, the UK is responsible for approximately 80% global personal fraud losses.
Lloyds claimed it has invested 100 million pounds over the last two years in its defenses, while NatWest dedicates 10% of its workforce to fighting financial crime. 100 additional staff have been hired by TSB to assist fraud victims over the past year.
However, lenders also want the government to share the load of social media platforms. They claim that some attacks are originated from them. British lawmakers last month told Facebook (NASDAQ), Google, Amazon (NASDAQ), and eBay (NASDAQ), that they need to combat fraud more.
Reed, a NECC representative, stated that fraud accounted for more than a third in all crimes committed in England and Wales.
“I will not hide the fact the response to the threat is out of sync with its severity and magnitude. “We have a mountain to climb.”
This is why criminals feel empowered to attack people like Anna. Anna has no hope of recovering her savings.
Fraudsters told her she should transfer her cash “at risk” to an account on a crypto platform. They emptied her bank accounts and isolated her from her family.
“They knew my financial adviser’s name, and they were just as convincing as FCA staff,” she stated. They said that they would not allow me to tell anyone the details of the investigation, as this could harm their efforts to find the criminals.
($1 = 0.7327 pounds)