There have been renewed warnings to beware of criminals exploiting the pandemic as impersonation scams almost doubled in the first half of 2020.

Figures from UK Finance found there were almost 15,000 impersonation scam cases reported by its members between January and June, up by 84 per cent on the same period last year.

More than 8,220 involved criminals impersonating the police or a bank, a rise of 94 per cent year-on-year.

A further 6,730 cases involved fraudsters imitating other trusted organisations such as a utility company, communications service provider or government department.

According to the industry body, £58m was lost to impersonation scams in January to June, an increase of 3 per cent on the previous year.

It said the rise in scams was partly driven by criminals exploiting the pandemic as scams included fraudsters sending emails or texts pretending to be from government departments and offering grants related to Covid-19.

It also warned that criminals may claim to be from an airline or travel agency, offering refunds for flights or holidays cancelled because of the pandemic.

According to UK Finance, criminals tend to research their targets, using information gathered from sources such as social media and data breaches to make their approach sound genuine.

Impersonation scams occur when the victim is persuaded to make a payment to a criminal claiming to be from a trusted organisation.

Where a criminal is impersonating a bank or the police, the scam often involves a call or text, which claims that there has been fraudulent activity on the victim’s account.

The victim is then convinced to transfer their money to a ‘safe account’, which actually belongs to the fraudster.

The industry body warned that criminals will often try to rush or panic their potential victims into making a payment, such as by claiming that their money is at risk, or their account will be blocked unless they act.