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UK Finance Reports APP Fraud Scams Doubled: But Should There be More Clarity on Industry Solutions?


image : business-standard.com


UK Finance, the trade body for the banks and finance industry, reported that criminals during the first half of 2021 stole £129.4 million from us through 'impersonation fraud' - i.e. the criminals pretend to be trusted organisations, and the ‘British’ inability to say “NO” when asked for personal details helps them. https://www.ukfinance.org.uk/press/press-releases/public-warned-surge-impersonation-scams-cases-more-double


Has this come from the ‘marketing team’ or ‘consumer team’? Probably, as the article seems to exclude any coordinated or even cross-industry ACTION PLAN though. This is a problem that has 'doubled to £129.4 million' in one year: and at that level, it must demand a regulator-led cross-industry plan. Will the losses double (or more) again across the remainder of 2021. With no clear action plan, should we suspect the numbers as fantasy or just unengaged thinking?


Two issues emerge. a) The fraud level is unacceptable; yet between the sending and receiving banks, they know the customers and accounts - OR should known them if they followed the EU/UK AML laws. b) This 'consumer research’ labels UK consumers as 'soft targets’ that need to be protected. Yet we read elsewhere that banks need to reimburse more than the current <50% of refunded consumers for these frauds, even though here we read that is the customers that are at fault (not the banks).


image : medium.com


Of particular concern is that this was a small-scale consumer survey without details of the survey representation: but the figures imply an accuracy of 1:10,000 (0.01%) which is ridiculous from a survey. A problem that really costs £129.4m deserves full disclosure and challenge of the details. Equally, why waste money upon a limited survey when the ACTION FRAUD initiatives have full details of all (?) reported frauds? ACTION FRAUD must be given more ‘teeth’ to drive real action. Or has it become just a PR function too, to allow us to ‘feel-good’. We, the banks must create (by design) the weapons and funding to start the war against these fraudsters; rather than ‘patronising our customers’ with reports on how it is them that are causing these losses. It is very much a problem for the banks and others.


We challenge the merits of this press release and we 'call for action’ that befits a multi-million-£ problem; if this is a simple ’shock story’ or a move to 'reassign the blame': then let’s retract it with the same aplomb; as scaring people is short-lived and pointless. The UK Finance announcement comes with their 'Take Five to Stop Fraud’ campaign, kicked-off 13 - 17 September 2021 - takefive-stopfraud.org.uk - and this too only highlights the absence of action from ‘industry’, which then shows the fraudster how little we are doing and how to ‘expand and escalate their criminal business models’.


Does the UK Finance ‘press release' pass the “so what?” test? We think not, and want to see all of the following actions (and more):

  • Greater industry coordination, to share and use the fraud data gathered: especially where the money went, through which companies and to which end-payees; and

  • The introduction of an agreed legal (legalised) transaction reversal process,

  • Greater coordination with other industries, especially telecoms as so many scams are phone initiated from within and outside of the UK

  • Better coordination of banks reimbursement of consumers that have been legitimately duped.

  • Tougher actions and sanctions on receiving banks - i.e. who open fraudster accounts or ‘handle' the money, and for not meeting their AML obligations. This should include full reimbursement to the customer through the original 'sending bank’.

  • Systems and AI that identifies these criminals before they make so many scam telephone calls (better still to identify and stop them before they make a 2nd call).

  • Telecom regulator enforcement upon errant telecom providers and require them to use similar rules to stop frauds through IP calls from entering the local telecom networks: we have known about these for 10+ years and still do not have a working solution.

Until we make people and businesses act properly, and make these scams more difficult, but also easier to identify; and also ways to find and punish the fraudsters and errant receiving-banks, the problem will naturally grow further.

image: forbes.com


Talking about the problem alone and blaming customers will not stop this £129.4m exploitation of customers. It will just undermine the financial services industry and show these criminals how easy this fraud is to perpetrate. There is a ready supply of victims for them who will never be ‘ever-vigilant’ and continually educated. We have forgotten how to protect the people that have lost this £129.4m; and blaming them when we have the data to do something is just not right.


Kevin Smith and Bill Trueman are directors at Riskskill, and are payments and risk specialist, with over 25 years of experience. For more information about Riskskill visit website at www.riskskill.com


For further information, please contact: Bill Trueman or Kevin Smith at enquiries@riskskill.com


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