Phishing scams cause online fraud to rise

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Online bank fraud losses rose sharply in the first half of 2006 due to a surge in phishing scams, new figures show.

According to the Association of Payment Clearing Services (APACS) the number of incidents rose to 5,059, leading to a 55 per cent increase in losses from internet fraud against banks, with the total number in the first half of 2006 amounting to £23 million.

The number of fake websites, for the purpose of phishing, that APACS is aware of has jumped 1,471 per cent in a year - from 312 in the first six months of last year to 5,059 this time.

There is also increasing evidence that fraudsters are targeting cash machine crime, which has risen by 37 per cent to £39.6 million, driven by criminals using hidden cameras to spy on people typing in pin numbers.

Conversely, credit and debit card fraud continue to decline. For the first six months of the year it was down 5 per cent on a year ago, at £209 million. APACS attributed this to the introduction of chip and pin technology. The number of fraudsters using lost, stolen and counterfeit cards to purchase goods in person fell dramatically as a result since in the majority of cases they do not know the pin number.

However, the success of the chip and pin system may have contributed to criminals switching to stealing people's credit and debit card details to buy goods online, claims APACS. This crime accounts for almost half of all losses, but despite the growth in the numbers of consumers shopping online, this form of fraud grew by only 5 per cent each year.

Sandra Quinn, director of corporate communications at APACS, said: "These fraud figures show that the industry's efforts are making their mark. However, each and everyone of us can also help defeat the fraudsters, and protect our cards and online accounts, by keeping our PINs, passwords and personal information safe and secure."

Home Office Minister, Vernon Coaker, said: "Fraud is not something that can be tackled in isolation - the best results can only be obtained by working together. The Government takes fraud very seriously whether the victim is a multi-million pound organisation or a single individual. The Fraud Bill, currently before Parliament, will clarify the law of fraud to better equip law enforcers and prosecutors with a modern legislative framework."

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