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Phishing scams cost UK banks £1m+

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Phishing scams have cost British banks more than £1m over the last 18 months. This is a tiny fraction of the £402.4m lost through credit card fraud for last year, but banks are still keen to raise awareness of the issue.

Scam emails that form the basis of phishing attacks pose as 'security check' emails from well-known businesses. These messages attempt to trick users into handing over their account details and passwords to bogus sites. The collected details are used for credit card fraud and identity theft.

First seen more than a year ago, phishing emails are becoming increasingly sophisticated, directing users to bogus websites which accurately reproduce the look and feel of legitimate sites. Such scam emails are becoming increasingly commonplace (we get four or five a day, for example) and more people are getting caught out.

Sandra Quinn of the Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS) told the BBC's Money Box program: "The losses now we think are over a million, and we know that figure is growing... It is something we are extremely concerned about."

Money Box spoke to one woman, Andrea from Cleveland, who had lost £6,000 from her account after falling for a phishing scam. "You just feel so stupid. You feel that you have been taken in by a con that should have been glaringly obvious," she said.

A spokeswoman for APACS explained that UK bank customers have not being held liable for money siphoned out of accounts as a result of phishing attacks. "Banks have taken the loss," she said.

She added that only a minority of people have been taken in by the ruse - the vast majority delete suspicious email. "Nonetheless, phishing attempts are still happening," she added.

According to an attack trends report from the Anti-Phishing Working Group, email fraud and phishing attacks grew by more than 43 per cent in March, with an average of 13 new, unique attacks sent out to millions of consumers each day. The group recorded 402 unique phishing attacks for March. The most-targeted industry sector was Financial Services with 256 unique attacks and the most put-upon company was eBay (110 attacks).

Email filtering firm Brightmail reckons one in 20 emails (five per cent) sent last month were phishing scams. That amounts to a staggering 2.9bn messages, according to Brightmail’s figures.

Users are advised not to respond to suspicious emails. Consumers should contact their bank via a trusted method of communication if they have any concerns. More top anti-phishing tips can be found here. ®

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