Advance fee fraud has surged eight-fold between the year ending March 2020 and the year ending December 2022, potentially due to scammers taking advantage of changing behavioral patterns during the pandemic, according to the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS).
The UK statistics authority said that recorded cases of advance fee fraud increased from 60,000 to 454,000 over the period, even as bank and credit account fraud decreased by 14%, from 2.5 million to 2.1 million offenses, and overall fraud figures didn’t budge from the 3.7 million recorded in 2020.
Read more about cybercrime and fraud during the pandemic: ONS Reports Huge Spike in Cybercrime and Fraud During COVID-19
Advance fee fraud occurs when a scammer tricks a victim into paying for an item or service that never turns up. Romance scams are a typical example, as are fraud events when a victim is told they’ve won a competition or inherited some money from a deceased relative, but need to pay a small fee to release the funds.
Unlike other types of fraud, banks will often not reimburse the victims.