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Bank reveals the scams causing biggest total customer losses during pandemic

Vicky Shaw, PA Personal Finance Correspondent
·3-min read

Impersonation scams account for the bulk of losses that victims have been reporting during the coronavirus crisis, according to a bank’s analysis of its customer data.

TSB said its internal data from February 2020 to March 2021 shows impersonation scams recorded the biggest proportion of total losses (43%), followed by “safe account” scams (30%) and purchase fraud (11%).

The bank has its own fraud refund guarantee to protect customers who become innocent victims of scams.

TSB said it has refunded 99% of all fraud cases, ranging from a 16-year-old to a 97-year-old victim, with an average loss of £2,360 per case.

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Impersonation scams may involve targeting people working from home during the pandemic.

Fraudsters may pose as energy suppliers or TV streaming services, for example. They may sometimes use information harvested from data breaches or social media to make themselves appear legitimate.

Average losses for such scams are £4,084, TSB said.

The bank has also seen an upswing in romance frauds as people seek companionship during lockdowns.

Fraudsters will use dating websites to impersonate other people and fabricate “sob stories” for why they urgently need cash.

Victims are typically aged 50 to 70 years old, TSB said.

Safe account scams typically involve criminals posing as a bank’s fraud department and claiming the victim’s account is “under attack” and money needs to be transferred.

In reality, the money goes into the scammer’s bank account.

TSB refunded £2,850 to one customer after they were phoned out of the blue and the fraudster used Covid-19 to create a sense of urgency.

Many purchase fraud cases are coronavirus-related, TSB added, and may involve scammers offering masks, hand sanitiser or other items which do not exist.

TSB said one customer paid £279 for a coronavirus testing kit that never arrived while another paid £100 for hand sanitiser that never turned up.

Over the past year, TSB has reported thousands of online fake profiles, scam adverts and links to online platforms.

It also reports all fraud cases to the police, helped by the information it has gathered from customers due to its fraud refund guarantee.

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Ashley Hart, head of fraud at TSB, said: “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in sophisticated attacks on the public.

“Banks and other businesses need to step up their efforts to protect their customers and help catch the criminals.”

Mike Haley, chief executive of crime prevention body Cifas, said: “Lockdown meant fraudsters were quick to adapt their attacks and target online platforms.

“The scales of these attacks are enormous – more than five million suspicious emails were flagged to the National Cyber Security Service over the past year.

“Fraudsters gain your trust by impersonating well-known brands through emails, social media and over the phone.

“As well as using a brand’s logo to trick you, some criminals spoof their emails so it appears contact is being made by a legitimate email address.

“They’ll often do their research before contacting you to help convince you their request is genuine, so be wary of what information you’re sharing online.”

He advised: “Take your time before engaging with requests to share your personal or banking details, no matter how legitimate it appears. If you do hand over your bank details and think it may not be genuine, get in touch with your bank immediately.”