Barclays Alerts: Monthly Bulletin on Rising Scam Trends

The bulletin monitors scams claims
The bulletin monitors scams claims
The Barclays Scams Bulletin tracks scam types and changes over time, providing information about affected groups and methods to help combat scams

Barclays has launched a new bi-monthly scams bulletin to monitor and analyse fraud trends across personal and business accounts.

The bulletin shows that the total value and volume of scam claims made in March and April 2024 fell by -15.7% and -7.1% respectively, down again from January and February.

Across various scam types, invoice and mandate claims are increasing, while police and bank impersonation scams have significantly declined compared to previous months.

Invoice & mandate scam cases increase

Mandate scams, also known as direct deposit or direct debit fraud, involve fraudsters deceiving organisations into changing the bank account details for regular payments, such as payroll or supplier payments, by posing as trusted entities. The scammers contact the target organisation, often through email or phone, claiming that the bank account information for receiving payments has changed, and provide new fraudulent account details. Once the organisation's systems are updated with the new information, subsequent payments are diverted to the scammer's account. These scams can result in significant financial losses and are often only discovered when the legitimate payee reports missing payments, by which time the fraudster has typically withdrawn the funds and vanished.

Invoice scams involve fraudsters tricking individuals or businesses into paying fake invoices or redirecting legitimate payments to fraudulent accounts. Scammers often impersonate legitimate suppliers or service providers by sending phishing emails that contain counterfeit invoices or by hacking into vendor email accounts. These fraudulent invoices usually include urgent payment requests, pressuring the victim to act quickly without proper verification. Sometimes, scammers intercept real invoices and alter the payment details to divert funds to their own accounts. The result can be substantial financial losses for the victims, who may only realise they've been scammed when the actual supplier inquires about the missing payment.

Invoice and mandate scams were up 6.9% across March and April. Significantly, the report highlights a worrying increase in invoice and mandate scams, with cases up by 6.9% and the average claim exceeding £8,600. These scams have become more sophisticated, often involving fake emails requesting payments that appear legitimate. The proportion of claims made by individuals aged 61-70 has also doubled, with high-value cases in this group averaging £12,000 per claim.

Kirsty Adams, Fraud & Scams Expert at Barclays says: “Invoice scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Scammers target suppliers, creating fake emails requesting invoice payments that can look seriously legitimate.

“People might imagine that invoice scammers solely target those working in finance, but it’s important for everyone to stay vigilant – particularly as we approach the summer, when consumers might be settling big invoices for events such as weddings and parties. It can be devastating to have a life event ruined by a heartless scam.”

“It is always worth double checking invoice and payment details against a previous invoice and if in any doubt, verify the details or amount with a known contact from the business over the phone.”

Smishing scams on text and messaging apps remain a widely-used tactic

The volume of scams taking place via text or a message app made up 8.2% of all scam claims in March-April 2024, a marginal fall compared to January-February’s 8.5%.

Scams originating on SMS/messaging apps accounted for a smaller share of the total value of claims, at 5.6%.

The average claim was £2,100 – less than a quarter of the £8,500 average for all scam types – suggesting “smishing” (the fraudulent use of SMS text messages to trick targets into clicking malicious links or handing over private information) continues to be a widely-used tactic for lower value scams.

“Social media platforms are the number one source of scams, however, our data shows that scammers are frequently targeting victims via text message too. There’s a risk people will assume that because someone has their number, they’re getting in touch with a genuine request.

“Family and friend impersonation scams, where a scammer pretends to be someone you know in order to get you to transfer money at a moment in need, have become worryingly commonplace. Scammers also use mobiles to target victims with investment and advance fee scams – where those targeted are duped into paying an upfront fee and for a service or product that doesn’t arrive.

“We’re warning everyone to stay alert and do their due diligence before communicating with any new number. If you believe you’re in contact with someone you trust, give them a call. And if you receive an unsolicited message requesting money, that should set alarm bells ringing.”

Police and Bank Impersonation scams decrease in both volume and value

March-April saw the volume of police and bank impersonation scams fall 32.9%. Over the same time period, the total value decreased 54.3%

Those aged 70+ made up a third (32.7%) of all reported police and bank Impersonation scams, while 31-40 was the only age group whose number of scam claims increased

The bulletin monitors scams claims made across all Barclays personal and business current accounts, providing a detailed view of data and emerging trends to educate consumers on how to spot and stop scams at source, and protect their funds.

Kirsty Adams says: There are fluctuations in scam tactics throughout the year, but it’s encouraging to see this is one scam type that has seen a decrease.

“With so much work being done across the industry to educate consumers, it is plausible that people are increasingly wary of impersonation scams, but our work is not done. As scammers’ tactics continue to evolve, it’s imperative that we continue to invest in arming the public with information and tools to spot and stop scams.”

With expert commentary and detailed data breakdowns, Barclays aims to educate consumers on spotting and preventing scams. Notably, the latest data shows a 6.9% increase in invoice scams, with average claims exceeding £8,6. For more insights and protective tips, visit the Barclays website.

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