Customer account hijacking up 50% in the UK

The number of bank accounts, credit cards and mobile phone contracts hijacked by criminals in the UK shot up by almost 50 per cent last year, according to figures published today.

As firms strengthened IT defences, hackers and fraudsters were reverting to old fashioned tactics by directly targeting customers.

Fraud prevention service Cifas gathered data from 387 firms, which included some of the UK's most well-known companies.

Cifas found that  'facility takeovers' – when a fraudster posed as a genuine customer to gain control of an account, increased to 22,525 up from 15,497 in 2015 across the UK.

Over half of these frauds were perpetrated over the phone, with the criminal posing as a customer and phoning the bank's call centre.

Overall, last year saw 325,000 cases of fraud up 1 per cent from the previous year.

Identity crime – which included identity fraud and facility takeovers remained the biggest threat, representing 60 per cent of all fraud recorded.

The criminals often stole personal information from social media and hacked into private systems to get users' details including name, date of birth, address and name of bank, and then apply for a loan or buy a product in their name.

Cifas chief executive Simon Dukes said, "Working together, organisations prevented £1 billion worth of fraud last year, but we know that as one method gets harder, fraudsters change tactic rather than stop, ITV reported.

"We are now seeing that the advances made in securing online access to customer accounts have led to fraudsters targeting the human being at the end of the phone," he added.

According to Dukes, education was key in preventing such frauds.

However, according to Alex Neill, the managing director of consumer watchdog Which?, "educating consumers is not the only solution".

He said, "Banks and businesses should be doing more to identify potential scams, and ensure that their security systems are being improved to prevent fraud taking place," said Neill.