UK fraudsters took advantage of two-thirds more victims during Covid

Millions of Brits who use online banking services are exposed to some worrying fraud risks, industry experts warned today.

The number of UK fraud cases worth more than £100,000 jumped by two-thirds (66 per cent) between 2020 and 2021, according to new figures from KPMG’s UK Fraud Barometer.

The figures show fraudsters took a splatter-gun approach to financial crime last year, in defrauding a larger number of victims for smaller sums of money than in 2020.

All in all, UK courts heard 298 cases of serious fraud in 2021, up from 180 cases of fraud worth more than £100,000 in 2020.

However, the total value of all serious fraud cases dropped significantly, from heights of £724m in 2020 to £444.7m in 2021.

KPMG’s figures show that there was increase in the number of frauds worth between £100,000 and £5m jumped from 164 in 2020 to 285 in 2021.

Meanwhile, there were no fraud cases worth more than £50m last year, despite the fact that a single case, worth £200m accounted for 28 per cent of the total value of all fraud cases in 2020.

Roy Waligora, Partner and Head of UK Investigations at KPMG, said: “Criminals immediately exploited the new ways of working and living that were created because of the pandemic, causing a huge spike in online fraud.”

“Sadly, many fraudsters have, and continue to take advantage of the unusual situation we find ourselves in, yet it is promising to see that some of these criminals have been brought to justice.”

The number of fraud cases involving the government almost doubled, from 38 cases worth £129.4m in 2020 to 72 cases worth £215.3m last year.

“Almost overnight government organisations had to find a way to support individuals who could no longer work because of the pandemic restrictions, so it’s inevitable that some fraud would happen and go undetected,” Waligora said.

Fraud cases involving employees also rose sharply last year, jumping by 50 per cent from 44 in 2020 to 66 in 2021.

In one prominent case, a 25-year-old employee set up multiple bank accounts on behalf of an organised crime group, into which he channeled £30m of stolen funds.

“Economic uncertainty has been a great motivation for some employees to commit fraud,” Waligora said.

“Those working from home may even think that they have a lower chance of being caught because they are out of sight of their employer and are willing to risk it.”