Over the past four months, readers of the Guardian and Observer have reported losing more than £1m to frauds as an epidemic of scams sweeps the country. Since the start of June, we have heard from more than 30 readers who have been tricked into handing money over to criminals and have written to ask for our help. Individual losses have ranged from a few hundred pounds to £245,000, and in total come to £1.05m. Some of the frauds date back many months, and readers are still trying to get their money back, but many have happened since the Covid pandemic started and reflect rising levels of fraud across the country.
According to the banking trade body, UK Finance, more than £750m was stolen from consumers in only the first six months of this year, with fraudsters using increasingly sophisticated means to part people from their cash.
Each of these crimes leaves a victim. They are devastated at having been duped and, in some cases, are left struggling to get by, having seen their life savings disappear. Banks, building societies and other financial organisations are adding automated warnings and interventions to try to get customers to think twice about payments and to report suspicious calls and emails before they act on them. But our readers’ stories show that more needs to be done. Transfers appear to be too easy, fraudsters too plausible and refunds are hit and miss. Here are some of the stories we heard during the summer.