Payments Report 2024

Are payments in Sweden safe?

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Fraud is the fastest growing type of crime in Sweden

Published: 14 March 2024

For the public to have trust in the payment system, they must feel that the system is safe. Recent years have seen a sharp increase in fraud, which risks undermining that trust. According to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, fraud is the category of crime that has increased the most in 2023. Among fraud offences, card fraud and fraud via social engineering have increased the most. The number of card fraud cases increased by 44 per cent from 2022. The number of card frauds increased by 44 per cent from 2022, but after having fallen over a number of years before that. You can see this in Figure 10.

Figure 10. Card fraud and social engineering fraud on the rise

Number of reported offences by type of crime and year.

Figure: Figure 10. Card fraud and social engineering fraud on the rise

Note: Statistics for 2023 are preliminary.

Download the data from the diagram by clicking on the arrow to the right, above the diagram.

Source: Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention.

Several measures to counteract social engineering fraud

A common form of fraud is the social engineering by telephone. The victims are often elderly. The fraudster often claims to be calling from the victim’s bank and misleads the victim into signing something with their BankID or providing sensitive information. Text message scams are also common. According to a survey from the Swedish Bankers’ Association, more than half of the population have received scam text messages and about one per cent of the text messages lead to a completed fraud.

Banks have a major responsibility to prevent fraud and have taken a number of measures. The Swedish Bankers’ Association and Swedish banks launched the Svårlurad initiative to raise awareness about social engineering and how to protect yourself against frauds and scams. In addition, the Swedish Bankers’ Association has submitted several petitions to the Government in 2023, including the introduction of a fraudster register and rules to counteract and hamper the manipulation of mobile and telephone numbers, also known as spoofing. Nordea has also launched savings accounts with delayed withdrawals, which should make it easier to stop transactions when people suspect they have been victims of fraud.

The fight against fraud is also a high priority for the Government. In October last year, the Government tasked Finansinspektionen with reviewing how payment service providers work to prevent fraud, and in December the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority was tasked with counteracting spoofing to limit fraud. The results of both tasks are to be presented on 31 May 2024. In February this year, the Government convened a meeting with the heads of the country’s largest banks. The Government wants to strengthen cooperation between banks and the police in order to prevent fraud against the elderly.

Card fraud is often committed online

The EU requires strong customer authentication for card payments, which contributed to a significant reduction in reported card fraud over many years. The increase in 2022 and 2023, as you can see in Figure 10, is mainly related to fraud where the fraudster has stolen card details but does not have access to the physical card. The fraudster can then use the card details for online transactions in countries where strong customer authentication is not required. To protect yourself against card fraud, most online banks, for example, allow you to close your card for online purchases and open it when you want to shop online.

The number of counterfeit banknotes is decreasing

The number of counterfeit banknotes submitted to the police has decreased from a historically high level of 6,629 in 2020 to 2,179 in 2023 (see Banknote and coin statistics). Swedish banknotes have advanced security features and the counterfeits found by the police are simple copies and usually easy to distinguish from genuine banknotes (see Security features). However, as fewer and fewer people in Sweden use cash, the knowledge of what a banknote looks and feels like is decreasing, which increases the risk of counterfeits spreading.

Cash is used for criminal purposes

Since cash can be paid anonymously, it can be used to conceal crimes or criminal activities. According to the Swedish Police, it is common for cash from criminal activities to be taken out of Sweden to be either laundered or reinvested in crime.

The fight against the criminal economy is very important. However, it is the Riksbank’s view that this should not lead to stores and other companies ceasing to accept cash. As long as consumers and companies need and want to use cash, they should be able to do so. Amount limits can be a way to continue offering the possibility of making cash payments while making it more difficult for the criminal economy.