UK Leads Europe with £46M Card Fraud Loss Cut in 2020

In a year that presented fraudsters with new opportunities to exploit consumers, UK financial institutions continued to lead the charge across Europe in thwarting the criminals. New data from FICO’s updated European Fraud Map shows that the UK achieved the greatest fall in card fraud monetary losses, dropping 7 percent and £46 million year-on-year.

However, other nations among the 18 European countries studied did not fare as well. Overall, card fraud losses in these countries was reduced by €62M.

“Fraudsters are constantly scanning for access to poorly protected accounts and opportunities to manipulate transactions and this is what made 2020 such a challenge,” said Matt Cox, vice president for financial services in EMEA at FICO. “Fraud teams would have faced wave after wave of sophisticated COVID and Brexit scams, which makes the success of UK financial institutions – protecting Brits’ finances – even more impressive.

“2020 has been an incredibly challenging year across the globe, with a rapidly changing mix of customer demands, a volatile staffing and servicing model, and a need to drive transformation quicker than ever before. These conditions, in addition to new attacks from fraudsters fuelled by COVID and Brexit, conspired to challenge fraud prevention teams at banks and other financial organisations.

“Despite this ever-changing set of priorities and demands, several countries across Europe significantly improved their fraud prevention performance, contributing to a second consecutive year of reduction in the losses experienced through fraud. And this is crucial for consumers who want the peace of mind that the institutions in which they trust their finances are doing all they can to stop the fraudsters. Whilst this is an incredible success story in CNP fraud, we need to remain vigilant of the growth in in scams, both in the plastic and payments space.”

UK Led European Fraud Reduction

While Europe enjoyed a sizable £54M drop in fraud loss for 2020, this was primarily driven by two countries, accounting for a reduction of £78 million between them. The United Kingdom achieved a £46M reduction (7 percent year-on-year); Denmark recorded a €21M decrease (48 percent).

“After achieving the largest single reduction of any European country in 2019, the banks of the UK have repeated this, with the best net reductions of the 18 countries in this report for the second year running,” noted Toby Carlin, a senior director of fraud consulting at FICO. “In an incredibly challenging year, only five of the 18 countries analysed by FICO achieved a reduction in card fraud.”

Hungary also made significant progress. It achieved the third best reduction in fraud loss of the studied countries, reducing fraud levels by €2M (39 percent).

Norway Sees Massive Rise from Phishing Attacks

Unfortunately, fraud losses continued their increases in France (€6M higher than 2019), Poland (€4M higher) and Germany (€3M higher). There was also a major attack in Norway, which led to an increase in fraud losses from around €8 in 2019 to around €22 in 2020, a rise of 172 percent, the largest rise of all the countries studied.

“An impressive multi-industry response to tackle this new attack is already showing positive signs of improvement,” added Carlin. “Much has been done in the region to combat this threat, both by our banking partners and the mobile phone operators, with real success. The worrying sign here is that the fraudsters have found a hybrid attack vector for the historically ‘digital savvy’ market.”

The Norway attacks centre around large-scale phishing and smishing efforts, designed to introduce a scam which ultimately ends in fraudulent Card Not Present (CNP) transactions.

Phishing and smishing attacks come almost exclusively from data compromise and result in several point attacks. The ability to identify these events effectively and early enough to prevent the attack takes a collaborative approach. FICO® Falcon® Compromise Manager is designed to flag fraud attacks and data compromise significantly earlier, helping banks better protect customers as well as minimise losses. Central to the solution is the collaboration it enables between the banks to address the challenge.

“Whilst it is incredibly positive for so many countries to have made gains through such a challenging period, with Turkey, Spain and the Czech Republic all showing a relatively flat trend through 2020, more needs to be done across the other European states to drive a truly collaborative reduction in all areas,” concluded Cox.