Scammers have switched their method of working to impersonating the police, a bank or the taxman to take advantage of the uncertainties brought on by the coronavirus pandemic
Figures released by banking trade body UK Finance show almost 15,000 impersonation scams between January and July – 84% up on the previous year – costing the victims a total of £58 million.
In more than half of the frauds recorded the criminal was impersonating either a police officer or an employee of the victim’s bank.
A further 6,700 posed as employees of other trusted organisations like utility companies, communications service provider or a government department.
A spokesman for UK Finance urged people to be aware of fraudsters using Covid-19 as a way of targeting them.
Head of fraud prevention Tony Blake said: “Criminals will tend to research their targets first, using information gathered from other scams, social media and data breaches in order to make their approach sound genuine.
They will also often try to rush or panic their potential victims into making a payment, for example by claiming their money is at risk or their account will be blocked unless they act.”
Managing Director of economic crime, Katy Worobec, added: Criminal gangs are ruthlessly exploiting this pandemic to commit fraud. So it’s vital we all work together to beat them.
“We are urging the public to remain vigilant against these vile scams and remember that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police.
Fraudsters will spend hours researching their victims, but they only need you to let your guard down for a minute.
“Always take a moment to stop and think if you receive a request to make a payment from someone claiming to be an organisation you trust.
Instead, contact the organisation directly, using a known email of phone number like the one on their official website.”
The body also warned the criminals might claim to be from an airline or travel agency, offering refunds for flights or holidays cancelled because of the pandemic.