05 June 2020

Latest fraud figures show the scale of Covid-19 scam attacks – as TSB reveals cases and vital support for victims

Latest figures¹ show the extent to which fraudsters are launching coronavirus related attacks on people across the UK as over 2,100 Covid-19 scam cases have been reported to Action Fraud since February – with reported losses passing the £5 million mark this week.

Covid-19 fraud losses and attacks during this period could be significantly higher. UK Finance reported that consumers lost £317million² to push payment fraud last year alone, and coronavirus has provided new avenues for fraudsters to target people in 2020.

The data also shows that over 11,500 reports of coronavirus themed phishing scams have been lodged as fraudsters impersonate a variety of organisations relevant to the handling of the virus and lockdown measures.

Recent TSB research³ shows that 42 percent of Brits suspect they have been targeted and that one in 10 people know someone who has been defrauded over the lockdown period.

Throughout the pandemic, TSB has shared details of emerging scams with the public and provided expert industry insight to help people avoid fraudsters’ new tricks.

TSB and Cifas have identified the most common Covid-19 scams Brits have been targeted with during the pandemic:

  • Covid-19 Track and Trace scams include fraudulent apps; as well as emails and texts that tell people they have been in contact with Covid-19 and to click a link or call a number.
  • Homeworking scams involve fraudsters taking advantage of the increased numbers of people working at home with tricks that include impersonating payroll departments and posing as an internet provider.
  • Bereavement scams are particularly heartless and see fraudsters targeting relatives of a recently deceased person with a variety of attacks. They are also contacting people to claim that money has been left by a deceased relative and will ask for bank details.
  • Covid-19 phishing quizzes are common on social media platforms and con people into answering questions that give their personal details straight to fraudsters.
  • Pension scams can strip people of their entire savings as fraudsters convince victims to transfer their pension pots to criminals, or to release funds.
  • Council tax refund scams typically see a scam text or email impersonating the Local Authorities and Central Government. The fraudsters promise a refund but will simply steal bank account details and money.

Fraudsters were quick to adapt their tactics to exploit vulnerabilities and fears over the virus, leading to some TSB customers being innocently caught out – all of whom were reimbursed through the TSB Fraud Refund Guarantee4 (FRG) as the bank maintained its 100 percent reimbursement rate for all innocent Covid-19 scam victims.

TSB Covid-19 scam victim case studies and reimbursement details

For instance, a customer in their 60s-from rural Scotland was reimbursed £40,000 after falling victim to a highly convincing, complex social engineering scam. The fraudster used the Covid-19 outbreak to create a sense of urgency and convinced the individual to transfer their savings to a ‘safe account’, claiming their account had been targeted by fraud.

TSB recently found that one in six (17%) of Brits thought it was unlikely that being asked to move money to a holding account by their bank could be part of fraudulent activity, which shows a significant amount of people remain vulnerable to this common trick.

Another customer from Scotland in their 30s fell foul to a purchase scam on an online marketplace site. The fraudster claimed to be an NHS worker and said they were self-isolating, which led to the customer paying £200 for the advertised bike via bank transfer. Upon arriving at the address to collect the bike the individual met another victim, who had also been duped. TSB supported the customer by reimbursing the sum and the listing was soon removed from the website.

Meanwhile, a customer from the North West in their late 50s who has cancer lost £102 to a Covid-19 doorstep scam in which the fraudster posed as a registered carer and offered to do the individual’s shopping. But instead, the criminal withdrew cash from their card without consent.

This case could have been viewed as ‘gross negligence’, due to the victim having handed their card details over. But TSB recognises the importance of supporting all victims – especially at this difficult time - and provided reimbursement.

An important aspect of the Fraud Refund Guarantee is that victims share much greater detail about the crime, which allows TSB to actively go after the fraudsters, instead of spending time deciding who was at fault. TSB has several partnerships with police forces to supply specialist training, equipment and insight into financial systems which, combined with more detailed victim information, has led to the arrest of dozens of fraudsters and disrupted thousands of attacks.

Ashley Hart, Head of Fraud, TSB, said:

“The coronavirus pandemic has seen fraudsters unleash an unprecedented wave of attacks across the UK with complex new scams targeting people at an already difficult time.

“We recognise that losses to fraud can be devastating. That's why our customers have their money returned to them in full – as we believe every innocent victim deserves all the support needed to get their life back on track again.

”Meanwhile, we continue to invest in technology and partnerships with police forces to target fraud, disrupt thousands of attacks and hunt down the criminals behind these scams.”

Mike Haley, CEO of Cifas, said:

“Fraudsters are using the coronavirus pandemic to steal money and personal information from innocent members of the public, and we are hearing of new and emerging scams on a daily basis.

“More than ever, people need to be hyper-vigilant of fraudulent activity and not let criminals take advantage of their fear and uncertainty during this difficult time.”

Media Contacts

Contact matthew.hepburn@tsb.co.uk / 07483 431 309

Out of hours: 020 7003 9369

Notes to editors

Since the introduction of TSB’s Fraud Refund Guarantee in April 2019, TSB has reimbursed 100% of all innocent victims. Overall, 99% of fraud cases were reimbursed with just one percent rejected when the customer was found to be complicit in the case.

TSB’s expert tips to help beat Covid-19 scams

Smishing: Fraudsters can ‘spoof’ text messages to look like they’ve originated from someone they haven’t i.e. the government, the World Health Organisation or your local doctors' surgery. Don’t click on any links provided in text messages, and make sure you verify any telephone numbers given before calling.

Phishing: Covid-19 tax refund, refunds from your travel bookings, safety advice via email and donation requests are all ways in which fraudsters could try and make you click on dodgy links, or make you part with sensitive personal and financial information. Always stop and think about what you are being asked to do, and if you have any doubts, talk to family or friends. And don’t open attachments.

Vishing: Always be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls. Don’t be afraid to put the phone down if you can’t verify the caller and guard your details. Appearances can be deceptive, so if you have concerns, call the organisation back on the number listed on their website, or if it’s your bank, use the number on the back of your card.

1The National Intelligence Fraud Bureau reported the following figures for Covid-19 fraud between 1st February 2020 – 1st June 2020.
- Total reports to Action Fraud = 2,151
- Total losses = £5,142,265
- Total reports of phishing to Action Fraud = 11,591 (as of 27/4/20, includes figures from NCSC suspicious email reporting service)

All figures from Action Fraud - the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime. Anyone who believes they have been the victim of a scam should contact their bank or financial service provider immediately and report the fraud to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or www.actionfraud.police.uk.

2UK Finance fraud figures for 2019: https://www.ukfinance.org.uk/data-and-research/data/fraud.

Losses due to authorised push payment scams were £455.8 million in 2019. This was split between personal (£317.1 million) and nonpersonal or business (£138.7 million). In total there were 122,437 cases relating to a total of 121,658 victims. Of this total, 114,731 cases were on personal accounts and 7,706 cases were on non-personal accounts.

3Consumer omnibus (2,000 UK adults) conducted by Opinium in April 2020.

4 TSB reveals 100% reimbursement rate for innocent fraud victims under its Fraud Refund Guarantee