Better fraud detection and swifter action on phishing sites contributed to online banking losses falling by a fifth during the first half of 2013, according to figures from banking sector body Financial Fraud Action UK.
Online fraud cost against UK institutions cost the industry £17.1 million ($27 million, a 21 percent drop compared to the same period in 2012, almost matching a 22 percent drop in telephone banking fraud to £5.2 million over the same period.
"This is due to enhanced processes for intelligence-sharing across the banks, as well as better online security tools and greater awareness amongst consumers," said the FFA. Under police direction, service providers had also improved their efficiency at taking down the phishing sites used to steal bank credentials, which had fallen by 87 percent compared to 2012 the organisation said.
But despite this, overall UK 'plastic fraud' rose to £216.1 million, a fairly sharp year-on-year 17 percent rise; so what are the new trouble spots?
The answer seems to be an accumulation of smaller types of card crime. Fraud perpetrated on cards while they are used abroad rose 30 percent to £60.1 million, cash machine fraud rose 11 percent to £16.2 million, and card ID theft rose 24 percent to £18.1 million.
Meanwhile, the old chestnut of 'CNP' or card not present fraud (by telephone, Internet and mail order) saw a 23 percent rise to £142 million, making up the biggest element of the figures. Although the banking industry trumpets the drop in over fraud from the infamous high of 2008 (a total of £304 million), CNP fraud has remained stubbornly high with the 2013 half-year numbers showing a significant jump over 2012.
The pattern seems to be that where the authorities are able to bring fraud detection systems and policing to bear, fraud drops; where that detection depends on third parties such as retailers, or on consumer behaviour, detection drops significantly. It's not easy to see how this weakness can be fixed.
"The move towards these low-tech crimes of deception highlights the importance of consumers knowing how they can protect themselves. Whether victims are targeted on the phone or online, we know that these professional conmen are highly persuasive," commented the head of the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU), detective inspector Dave Carter.
Consumers were still too easily fooled when contacted by criminals pretending to be banks or other institutions, he said.
A wrinkle in the numbers is that they reflect the losses experienced by the banking-sector organisations the FFA represents (formerly the Association for Payment Clearing Services, APACS), which don't necessarily line up with those experienced by consumers.
A recent survey of consumers by the University of Kent found that a small minority had experienced spectacular losses from online fraud, sometimes in excess of £10,000. Although surveys can produce outliers it seems possible that the chance of serious losses in fraud incidents is now a real menace.