City of London Police Commissioner Ian Dyson at the PIMFA Financial Crime Conference

“Roughly 48-50% of all reported crime is fraud or cybercrime – and it’s on the rise.”

So said Commissioner Ian Dyson, of the City of London Police, during his opening keynote speech to the PIMFA Financial Crime Conference, in which he addressed the scale of the threat and what is being – or can be – done to mitigate it.

He painted a bleak picture of a society where 75% of all reported fraud is cyber enabled, is growing exponentially and is more lucrative than old-school bank robbery. The reporting aspect of this appears to be a problem in its own right – he suggests that as much as 80% remains unreported for various reasons, not least the avoidance of reputational damage.

The bad guys are constantly innovating, finding new areas through which to attack. He highlighted two relatively new threats – so-called ‘Romance’ and ‘Courier’ fraud. Regarding the latter, the day after the conference over 40 people were arrested in a ‘crackdown’ on this crime. Police say that more than 3,000 people, most of them elderly, have been duped into handing over large sums in cash to fraudsters who call their victims, pretending to be either a police officer or a bank official, and persuade them to hand over money to a “courier” on the pretext of assisting an investigation into corruption.

Romance fraud is equally disturbing. You’ve struck up a relationship with another profile on a dating site, which feels like it’s getting intimate. You arrange to meet but, at the last minute, your correspondent has a problem of a financial nature making the meeting impossible unless you send money. You send money but that’s not the end of the story as the criminals come back, sometimes time and time again, until you either twig what’s happening or run out of money. An old trick, brought bang up to digital date but, this time, they may have stolen your identity as well.

So, what can be done? First off, let’s get back to basics …. Strong, frequently changed passwords are a given, these days, and this applies across the board. Be very careful about what images and information you put up on social media as this can unwittingly give a fraudster enough information to replicate your identity. As a general rule, avoid giving away personal details online to anyone you’re not absolutely sure about. In the case of romance fraud, doing an online reverse image search of a profile’s image can find photos that have been taken from somewhere else.

If you find that you have fallen victim to one of the many scams out there, reporting it to the relevant authorities is key so that they can build an accurate picture of what is happening and move to counter it. Fail to report and a critical piece of information may be lost. This is an important thing to remember generally but it applies doubly so for the corporate sector, firstly because the newer regulations demand it and secondly because the reporting itself contributes hugely to the establishment of best practice and accurate intelligence on the scale and type of a given threat.

It is often said that we now live in an ‘On Demand’ society in that, whatever it is that we want, we want it now. This attitude is like an open door to a robber, in the sense that, because we’re in a hurry to ‘get it done’, we may well cut corners in terms of our own self-protection. Double and even triple-checking that your digital interlocutor is genuinely who they say they are is a big step towards remaining safe in today’s digital world.