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Barclays reveals surge in monthly figures for impersonation scams in June 2020

16 July 2020
  • Barclays data reveals a surge in the number of impersonation scams in June 2020*
  • Total value of scams up by 33 per cent since May 2020
  • Romance ‘catfishing’ scams increased by 86 per cent in June 2020
  • Value per claim highest in investment scams

Britons under lockdown have experienced a significant spike in impersonation scams, with June seeing a surge in the monthly figures for scams involving con artists pretending to be police or bank staff.

New data provided by Barclays reveals the figures for impersonation scams in June to be nearly double that of the previous month. Additionally, romance ‘catfish’ scams – where victims are convinced to make a payment to fake lovers they’ve met online – increased by 86 per cent. Overall, the number of scams in June 2020, saw a 33 per cent rise from May 2020.

Jim Winters, Head of Fraud at Barclays said: “Scammers are using increasingly sophisticated and persuasive means to try and get what they want from unsuspecting members of the public. They have taken advantage of the lockdown situation and targeted individuals at a time when they may be feeling more vulnerable and have more time on their hands to entertain such exchanges. They may also not have the support networks around them that might otherwise stop them falling victim in the moment. We all need to remain vigilant, do the appropriate research before making payments and never give out our personal information.”

Impersonation scams may come from someone reporting to be from a utility company, a service provider or a government department such as HMRC. They may tell the victim to make urgent payments or try to obtain personal information. There is often an elaborate story such as fraudsters have been trying to access a bank account or the local bank staff are being investigated for fraud. The scammers may even have some personal information to make the call seem genuine.

Romance scams carry the double whammy of heartbreak. This happens when a person joins a dating website/app in the hope of finding a partner, and they meet somebody online who seems very keen on a relationship. However, this person starts to exploit their feelings and asks to ‘borrow’ sums of money that are never repaid. Months later, the victim realises they’ve been duped by a scammer only interested in their wallet, and nothing more.

The data showed that value per claim tends to be highest in investment scams. These take place when a scammer convinces an investor to move their money to a fictitious fund offering significantly higher returns that they are currently receiving.

To help Brits become more aware of how to stay safe and avoid scams, Barclays has identified the top ways to stay cautious and protect your finances:

Impersonation scams:

  • Your bank will never call you and ask you to move your money to a ‘safe’ account, make a payment, or hand over cash. The police won’t either. If your so-called bank or police try and pressure you into making a payment, it’s probably a scam. 
  • Never disclose your PIN or hand over your bank cards to anyone. Your bank will never ask you to give your cards, PINs and personal details. The police won’t either. If you accidentally share your details and later realise you’ve been duped, call your bank immediately.
  • If you bank with Barclays, you can always use our telephone number checker to make sure the number is genuine and for advice on how to proceed. Be aware that numbers appearing on caller ID’s and text messages can be ‘spoofed’, it’s always best to phone the genuine number back, ideally from a different phone.
  • Be aware that organisations such as HMRC can be impersonated, it isn’t always who you think it is. Be cautious of any requests to take remote access of your computer and speak to family/friends if you’re unsure. Only contact a company or organisation using details you know are real, or from their genuine official website.

Romance scams:

  • Do as much online research about the person who’s approaching you as you can – are they on social media and is their identity the same? Are you able to confirm where they say they work or live? Is their photo the same across social media accounts? 
  • You can try to double-check a person’s photo origin and authenticity by typing ‘reverse image search’ on your favourite web browser and checking websites that seek to verify if pictures are original or not. 
  • Don’t give out your bank account information to anyone or send money to people you don’t know, especially if it’s for a family crisis or emergency – the minute a so-called ‘partner’ asks you for cash, stop and question – is this real?

Investment scams:

  • Any so-called ‘investment opportunity’ you receive out of the blue is likely to be very risky or a scam. Many con artists do background checks on targets - for example, they may look for those who have recently retired, sold a business or come into a large inheritance – and tailor their pitches to match the profile.
  • If you are considering an investment, do plenty of research before you commit. Investments offering ‘too good to be true’ returns are often fake.
  • When researching investment opportunities, ensure that the website is genuine as it could be a clone page. The Financial Conduct Authority also has a register you can check. This allows you to see if a company you’re thinking of doing business with is actually authorised to provide regulated financial services. This can help you avoid being caught out by unscrupulous operators.

For more details on how to stay safe, visit www.barclays.co.uk/security

*Barclays data on reported scams is from Jan 2020 – June 2020.