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Cifas warns consumers not to fall victim of ‘festive fraud’ following sharp rise in facility takeover scams

22 December 2020
  • Statistics from the National Fraud Database reveal facility takeover fraud increased by a fifth in the first nine months of 2020
  • Consumers urged to be wary of attempts to deceive them over the Christmas period when this activity typically peaks

The latest statistics from Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention organisation, show a worrying increase in the number of victims of facility takeover in the telecommunications and retail sector.

Cases recorded to the National Fraud Database for facility takeover, where an existing facility such as a retail account or phone contract is hijacked by a fraudster for their benefit, increased by 19% during the first nine months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. The majority of these cases indicated that the telecommunications and retail organisations were the main sectors targeted by this fraudulent conduct.

The most common way that accounts are taken over is through social engineering, where victims believe they are dealing with legitimate companies and individuals and reveal personal or financial information. Criminals then use this information to conduct fraudulent conduct, such as ordering mobile phones on a customer’s account – an activity which increased by 145% in this period. The retail industry has also seen rises, with cases of this fraudulent conduct increasing by 215%.

Techniques used by criminals are becoming more sophisticated as they find new ways to circumvent security measures put in place by companies. Some criminal organisations now offer subscription services to assist others looking to perpetrate these attacks.

Mike Haley, CEO of Cifas, said: ‘The rising trend of facility takeover comes as no surprise. We often notice a spike in this activity over the festive period, and so I would urge everyone to remain vigilant if contacted by anyone claiming to be from an organisation they trust, such as a bank, mobile phone company or even the police.

‘With Christmas approaching, we have also seen a spike in criminals impersonating delivery companies, often claiming homeowners have missed a delivery and need to provide details to pay for redelivery. Victims are often duped into sharing their bank details which are then used fraudulently.

‘If you are suspicious of anybody contacting you, take a minute and think before parting with your money or information. Challenge the person contacting you and remember you can reject, refuse or ignore any requests you receive - only criminals would try to rush or panic you. If you do believe you have fallen for a scam, contact your bank and any affected accounts to let them know and report it to Action Fraud.’


Notes to Editors

Facility takeover cases filed to the National Fraud Database

Sector January - September 2019 January - September 2020
Online retail 2,365 7,461
Communications 11,620 13,720
All sectors 22,672 27,039


About Cifas

Cifas is an independent, not-for-profit membership organisation that protects businesses and individuals through effective and secure data and intelligence sharing between the private, public and third sectors. In 2019, Cifas member organisations prevented over £1.5 billion of fraud losses.

Cifas data is included in the Office of National Statistics England and Wales Crime Statistics of police recorded crime and works alongside law enforcement agencies in tackling fraud.

For more information contact:

Matt Pearson
Press & Public Relations Manager, Cifas
T: +44 (0)20 3004 3644

Posted by: Cifas Press Team

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7 January 2021

Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, is warning UK taxpayers to be vigilant of scams as the 31 January deadline for self-assessment tax returns approaches. On top of scammers taking advantage of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic throughout 2020, HMRC received more than 846,000 reports of suspicious communications impersonating them in the 12 months leading up to November 2020. This includes over 300,000 suspicious phone calls – a 47% increase from the previous 12 month period.


Excellence in tackling fraud by Local Authorities recognised at FFCL Awards 2020

16 December 2020

The award winners were announced at a virtual awards ceremony hosted by Cifas, the secretariat to the FFCL Board, on Monday 14 December 2020. The FFCL Awards recognise the outstanding work teams and individuals from Local Authorities are doing to protect the public from fraudulent conduct.

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Posted by: Cifas Press Team

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