The Unstoppable Rise of the Internet Scammer

From annoying fake delivery texts, to hackers forcing Instagram users to film hostage-style videos of themselves promoting get-rich-quick schemes, 2021 was the year scamming blew up.

As Paul Maskell, fraud and cybercrime prevention manager at UK Finance, puts it: “There’s a flavour of fraud for everyone.” 

In the first half of 2021, criminals in the UK stole over £750m through fraud – a big portion of which came from online scams. This was an increase of over 30 per cent compared to the first half of 2020 and it doesn’t look to be slowing down. Younger people are also increasingly becoming victims. In the last 12 months, Action Fraud has had more reports from people aged 20-29 and 30-39 than any other age groups. 

“Over the last 18 months, criminals have had to adapt online as much as we have in some ways,” says Maskell. As our lives have moved even further online, so too have scams – 80 per cent of cases reported to Action Fraud are now “cyber-enabled”, AKA done using digital devices or the internet. This may account for why we’re falling victim to scams in greater numbers than our nans, who are less likely to be shopping, socialising or investing money online.

Maskell says it’s not just that our reliance on the internet has made us easier targets for scammers; it’s also that technology creates a barrier between scammers and their victims, making it easier for them to steal money and sleep at night. “You’ve got that aspect of the…

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