Online scams rocketed during lockdown, say Barclays

21 August 2020, 21:55   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Latest figures from Barclays show reported scams increased by 66% in the first six months of 2020, coinciding with lockdown in the UK.

Investment scams rose by 49% in July, with Barclays saying that's the highest level it has ever reported.

Fraud in July was up 5% compared to the month before, and Barclays have warned customers to be vigilant.

They point to the potential for holiday scams to increase as people try to grab good deals in the UK due to the coronavirus crisis.

barclays bank branch
Credit: Tony Baggett/

Investment scams

An increase of 49% in the number of investment scams reported to Barclays shows a worrying spike in a potentially life-altering fraud.

While investment opportunities range in scope, there's the potential for customers to lose vast sums of money, and Barclays point out these scams are suited to the current climate.

Investments require customers to wait for deals to be completed, so a customer may not realise they have been scammed until it's too late.

Given the slower speed of systems during coronavirus, it can seem to plausible to customers that deals will take longer than usual, and this may account for the spike.

In addition, more people are at home and potentially worried about their financial system, so they may be more open to being defrauded.

Scams on rise

The overall increase of 66% in the six months to July is alarming, especially as figures in July rose 5% on the month before.

This suggests there are no signs of the spate of scams abating, and that customers should be vigilant about all different types of scams.

Barclays have also warned holidaymakers to be aware of holiday scams during the rest of the summer, highlighting an increase in campervan scams on online marketplace sites during the lockdown period.

These scams involve fraudulent listings being placed on sites like eBay and Gumtree, encouraging customers to pay for vehicles they haven't seen.

As lockdown took hold, more people were willing to put money into a vehicle they hadn't yet seen in person, with virtual viewings becoming the norm across most industries.

Fake listing scams sometimes involve money being placed into holding accounts until the customer can collect the vehicle, but the money is taken immediately, and the customer realises they have been defrauded.

Along with scams for holiday lets and non-existent experiences, there are plenty of ways fraudsters could approach the victims right now.

Protecting against fraud

Barclays figures are the latest to show how many people in the UK are at risk of fraud as the coronavirus outbreak continues to alter the way we live our everyday lives.

Research from Santander back in June suggested that 45% of people would move their money to a so-called safe account if prompted by a someone in authority over the phone, while separate research from NatWest showed an increase in purchase scams for items such as the Nintendo Switch.

While the APP (Authorised Push Payment) Voluntary Code does offer refunds to some customers duped into sending their money to fraudsters, it's important to note that only 41% of cases assessed were refunded in the first nine months of the scheme.

Equally, while the Code has been extended until December 2020, the industry remains divided about how to fund such refunds and handle APP fraud more generally after the Code expires.

The most effective way to ensure we don't lose our money, then, is to be vigilant about scams and opportunities that are too good to be true.

Our guides on telephone scams and online scams can help customers avoid falling victim to fraudsters.

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