The public has been warned of a surge in impersonation scams as cases more than double as new research finds that nearly one in four people find it hard to say ‘no’ to requests from a stranger on the phone according to new UK Finance research.

The figures have been shared at the start of Take Five Week (13-17 September), with the public is being warned about the increase in fraudulent calls, texts and emails. The figures show the number of impersonation scam cases more than doubled in the first half of 2021 to 33,115. These scams resulted in criminals stealing £129.4 million through this type of fraud alone over this time. In the same period last year there were 14,947 impersonation scam cases which led to £57.9 million being stolen.

In an impersonation scam, a criminal pretends to be from a trusted organisation such as a bank, the police, a government department or a service provider. The criminal then tricks their victim into transferring money using a range of cover stories. These include claiming they need to protect an account from fraud, that a fine or tax needs to be paid or an erroneous refund must be returned.

The rise in impersonation scams comes as research for the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign finds that nearly one in five (19 per cent) of people feel uncomfortable saying ‘no’ to a request for personal information from a stranger via email or text, rising to almost a quarter (23 per cent) when it comes to phone calls.3 This could leave them at risk of an impersonation scam.

Overall, 92 per cent of people admit to saying ‘yes’ because they don’t want to appear rude. The research found that people use all sorts of phrases to avoid saying ‘no’, with the most popular being ‘I’m not sure’ (used by 37%), followed by ‘I don’t think so’, ‘Let me think about it’, and ‘I can’t at the moment’ (all 34%) and this can give criminals a way in.

Tony Blake, Take Five fraud expert, said “Criminals are experts at pretending to be someone they are not – and can fool even the savviest of people, who don’t want to seem rude.”
“If someone contacts you unprompted and asks for personal or financial information, stop and take a moment to think – even if they claim to be from an organisation you trust. Only criminals will put pressure on you to act quickly. Remember it’s ok to say no and contact the organisation through a route you know to be genuine.”

“The banking and finance industry works to tackle fraud on every front, through investing millions in advanced technology and working closely with the government and law enforcement to stop the criminal gangs responsible.”