CIFAS, THE UK’s fraud prevention service, has released its annual Fraudscape Report detailing the latest data and intelligence recorded by Cifas members during 2021. The document reveals that, on average, a new case of fraudulent conduct was filed by organisations every 90 seconds, with over 360,000 cases recorded to the National Fraud Database. That’s an increase of 16% on 2020. As a result, Cifas members saved around £1.3 billion through prevented fraud losses in 2021.
Cases involving identity fraud increased by nearly a quarter (ie 22%) in 2021 when compared to the previous year, with over 226,000 cases recorded to the National Fraud Database.
Banking and plastic cards were hit hardest by criminals abusing stolen details to apply for products and services. Fraudsters also focused their attention on loan products, which saw a 39% increase in fraudulent activity. These products are likely to continue to be targeted as a response to the rise in living costs.
One fifth of cases recorded to the National Fraud Database in 2021 relate to the misuse of facilities, which has grown by 17% to over 79,000 cases. A large number of misuse cases related to bank accounts, with nearly three-quarters (ie 72%) showing behaviours indicative of money mule activity. This increased by nearly a quarter (24%) to over 50,000 cases. Of these cases, a large number of those involved were aged from 21 to 30 years (up 32%).
There was also a notable rise in those aged under 21, with cases up by 19%.
The majority of the remaining cases filed to the National Fraud Database were recorded for facility takeover fraud, with 37,000 instances occurring. Criminals focused their efforts on gaining access to existing accounts, particularly so in relation to online retail and telecoms products.
2021 also witnessed a shift towards gaining access to existing plastic card accounts, which rose by nearly a fifth (19%).
Nearly 270 cases involving employee or job applicant fraud were filed to the Internal Fraud Database in 2021. Two out of every five of these were in relation to dishonest actions by staff, such as by way of stealing cash or equipment from their employer.
There was also a 10% growth in unsuccessful attempts made by job applicants who had lied in their application, with most of these individuals attempting to cover up adverse credit or employment histories.
Tsunami of fraud
Mike Haley, CEO of Cifas, explained: “Our latest figures show that businesses and consumers are currently facing a tsunami of fraud. Unfortunately, I think matters may worsen before they become better. The predicted rise in the cost of living will give criminals new opportunities to commit fraud, while I expect that consumers will be bombarded by increasingly sophisticated phishing attempts, including fake job offers, money-making opportunities and offers that are simply too good to be true.”
Haley continued: “Businesses will also find themselves under greater attack from fraudulent activity, with criminals increasingly looking for vulnerabilities in systems and processes. On average, an attempt at identity fraud is made every two-and-a-half minutes against businesses. Sadly, when these attempts are successful, criminals can go on to use the proceeds of their ‘work’ to commit other criminal offences and even finance terrorist activity.”
Steps towards protection
Amber Burridge, head of fraud intelligence at Cifas, noted: “Members of the public are at more risk than ever of falling victim to fraud and scams. It’s important that they take proactive steps to protect themselves by thinking carefully when receiving an unsolicited call or an e-mail asking them for money or their financial details.”
Burridge added: “Anyone who believes that they’re being targeted by fraudsters or has been a victim of fraud must report it to Action Fraud and tell their bank immediately if they have supplied money or their financial details. Scam calls and texts can be reported to 7726 and e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
As a result of individuals using these reporting channels, the National Cyber Security Centre has removed over 76,000 scams across 139,000 URLs since April 2020, duly demonstrating the very real and positive impact that reporting of this kind of activity can deliver.
*Cifas’ full Fraudscape Report is available to view online at www.fraudscape.co.uk
**The report’s website will be updated quarterly with new data and intelligence from Cifas, its members and partner organisations