Suspected Financial Services Digital Fraud Attempts Rise 149% Globally as Prevalence of Digital Transactions Increase

As more consumers go online for banking and other financial transactions, new research from TransUnion has found that fraudsters are ramping up their efforts in the financial services industry. When comparing the last four months of 2020 (1 September to 31 December) and the first four months of 2021 (1 January to 1 May), the company found the percentage of suspected digital fraud attemptsi in financial services increased by 149%.

Across industries, the rate of suspected digital fraud attempts globally rose 24% when comparing the first four months of 2021 with the last four months of 2020i.

TransUnion monitors digital fraud attempts reported by businesses in varied industries such as gambling, gaming, financial services, healthcare, insurance, retail and telecommunications, among others. The conclusions are based on intelligence from billions of transactions and more than 40,000 websites and apps contained in its flagship identity proofing, risk-based authentication and fraud analytics solution suite – TransUnion TruValidate™.

“Incidents of attempted fraud are on the rise internationally, with financial services seeing a particularly dramatic jump. Fraudsters have been quick to target a sector which has seen online transactions surge over the last year due to the pandemic,” said John Cannon, managing director of fraud and ID at TransUnion in the UK. “Financial services organisations are, however, implementing fraud prevention solutions with an encouraging degree of success and our recent survey of UK consumersii found more than one in 10 (12%) had been protected by their bank from losing money after falling victim to a scam, but this global research emphasises the huge scale of the task. As we continue to recover from the uncertainty seen over the last year, businesses must ensure they are continually reviewing and updating their fraud prevention strategies to help them deliver secure and seamless customer journeys.”

COVID-19 has accelerated the move towards digital financial transactions, with high street banks reporting a huge increase, which is unsurprising in light of repeated lockdowns and social distancing. This shift in behaviour has also led to growth for online-only banks and apps with nearly a third (32%) of consumersiii in the UK who have changed their current account since March 2020 opting for an online-only provider.

However, despite this growth in digital-first finance, concerns over security remain a major deterrent to consumers in the UK, with 35% of those who would not consider an online-only bank or app saying it was due to fears over digital fraud.

Examining Fraud Types and Their Impact on Industries

TransUnion analysed industries with the highest increases and declines in the percent of suspected digital fraud attempts against them, comparing the periods of 1 September to 31 December, 2020 and 1 January to 1 May, 2021.

Top Suspected Digital Fraud Rate Attempt Increases and Declines by Industry


Suspected Fraud Percentage Change

Top Type of Fraud

Largest Percentage Increases

Financial Services


True Identity Theft

Travel & Leisure


Credit Card Fraud



Gold Farming

Largest Percentage Declines



Shipping Fraud



Suspected Ghost Broker



Promotion Abuse

TransUnion defines true identity theft, the top type of digital fraud in financial services, as the consumer using a stolen identity to commit fraud with the victim being a real person. The second and third most reported type of digital fraud by TransUnion financial services customers are first party application fraud and account takeover, respectively.

First-party application fraud is when a consumer refuses to repay legitimately incurred debts and/or falsely claims to be a victim of identity fraud to evade debt. Account takeover is when someone other than the owner of an account uses the account without permission, indicating that the account has been maliciously compromised.

Sam Welch, director of banking at TransUnion in the UK, said: “What we’re seeing demonstrated on an international scale is the agility used by fraudsters to target industries which are registering a boom in transactional activity. For finance providers in the UK, it’s critical to keep up with the ever-evolving tactics used by fraudsters to obtain and misuse customer and company information. An adaptable fraud prevention strategy with a multi-layered approach is crucial to managing these threats, which show no signs of abating in the near future.”

More information about TransUnion’s fraud solutions can be found here.


i The percent or rate of suspected or risky fraudulent digital transaction attempts are those that TransUnion’s customers either denied or reviewed due to fraudulent indicators compared to all transactions it assessed for fraud

ii Based on a survey of 2,000 UK consumers carried out on behalf of TransUnion in May 2021 

iii Based on research conducted 5 – 9 March 2021 with 1,100 UK consumers on behalf of TransUnion