ONS Fraud Statistics Reveal Soaring Levels of Digital Fraud

Josh Gunnell, head of fraud & ID pre-sales at TransUnion in the UK, comments on the recent ONS fraud statistics:

“The latest ONS fraud statistics reveal the sheer scale of the challenge we face in the UK as cybercriminals take advantage of the digitalisation of society. UK Finance has reported a 61% increase in remote banking fraud, which equates to 61,752 incidents, whilst Action Fraud reveals social media and email hacking fraud jumped 53% to 14,241 offences in the year ending September 2020.

“These increases in digital fraud are likely to continue, given the shifts to online that have been accelerated by the pandemic alongside the social distancing and lockdown measures that continue to be imposed. This is echoed by TransUnion’s own research tracking the impact of COVID-19 in the UK, which showed that at the end of 2020, 30% of respondents had been targeted in a digital fraud attempt related to the pandemic, with 7% of those falling victim to the scams[i].

“Fraudsters adapt quickly – as we’ve seen recently with the rise in investment scams circulating on Instagram and other social media channels – and businesses need to be equally agile, continually reviewing and adapting their fraud prevention strategies and tools.

“Even some of the strategies to prevent fraud can themselves become vectors of fraud, such as the ‘confirmation of payee’ scheme. This is in place to better protect consumers but has given rise to a spike in phishing texts telling the target that a new payee has been set up and directing them to click a link for details. The threats evolve continually and in the current environment, with people banking and shopping almost exclusively online, these risks are greater than ever.

“The ONS figures would suggest fairly similar levels of overall fraud as the previous year, at 4.4 million fraud offences for the 12 months to September 2020. However, we see a varied picture from the different bodies within the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau for the same period. Action Fraud reported a 4% rise, UK Finance reported a 23% increase and Cifas, reported a 9% decrease. As well as the nuances of the different reporting methods, we must also take into account that fraud is often going unreported. Our own research[ii] into this last year showed that 75% of COVID-19 related fraud had not been reported.

“We’d expect to see continuing fluctuations in the different types of fraud as we navigate our way through the pandemic, and vigilance is key. As well as having all the essential checks in place, businesses can educate consumers to help them spot some of the signs and notify their customers when known scams are circulating.”



[i] Based on data collected 20 November 2020 for TransUnion’s Financial Hardship Study, a series of surveys of 1000 UK consumers, carried out on behalf of TransUnion

[ii] Based on a survey of 2000 UK consumers, conducted in May 2020 on behalf of TransUnion