Email scams in which fraudsters try to trick people into revealing their bank account details have soared by 180% in the past year, figures in the UK showed today.
Payments body APACS said there had been more than 20,600 phishing incidents involving UK bank and building society customers during the first six months of 2008, compared with around 7,200 in the same period of 2007.
A phishing attack involves fraudsters sending emails to consumers pretending to be from their bank, instructing them to follow a link and enter their account number and password details.
APACS urged people to remain on their guard against the emails, adding that they were often easy to spot as they were usually addressed ’Dear valued customer’, rather than to the individual.
However, it warned people not to try to hit back at the fraudsters by replying to the emails and either providing bogus information or letting them know that they realised it was a scam, as by doing so people were putting their computer at risk of attack from computer viruses.
One of these, known as spyware, enables fraudsters to monitor activity on the computer, including viewing passwords and other personal information, without the user knowing.
Despite the warning, APACS said the chances of becoming the victim of online banking fraud were still very low, with the amount lost through internet fraud falling by 33% during 2007 to £22.6m (€28.6m).
The group said most fraud on online accounts involved customers being tricked into giving away passwords and security information.
It said one reason why criminals were targeting customers through phishing and spyware scams was because banks’ own systems had proved difficult to attack.
The group also revealed that the number of people banking online has soared by 500% during the past seven years to just over 21 million people in 2007.
It added that more than half of all internet users now banked online.
Sandra Quinn, director of communications at APACS, said: “We strongly urge banking customers to make sure they remain wary of online scams such as unsolicited emails claiming to be from their bank, and to only use a fully protected PC with regularly updated anti-virus software and a firewall installed and switched on.”
APACS has produced a free guide to banking safely online, which is available at www.banksafeonline.org.uk