Phishing attacks on UK consumers have more than doubled for the first quarter of this year, according to Apacs, the UK payment association.

Apacs recorded more than 10,000 reported phishing incidents in the first quarter of 2008, more than 200 per cent up from the same period last year.

Online banking losses due to fraud have decreased by one-third from £33.5m in 2006 to £22.6m in 2007, Apacs said, but efforts to defraud users have climbed steadily.

The number of recorded phishing incidents for the first quarter of 2007 was 3,394, an increase from 2,369 in the first quarter of 2006.

"Although online banking fraud losses fell last year, the fraudsters clearly aren't giving up," said Apacs director of communications Sandra Quinn. "Phishing scams are continuing to rise and they are becoming ever more sophisticated."

There are, notoriously, no reliable figures for cybercrime in the UK, partly due to the lack of a centralised internet law-enforcement body - the National High-Tech Crime Unit having been folded into the Serious Organised Crime Agency in 2006.

The dramatic rise in phishing figures could also be due to increased awareness on the part of users.

Indeed, Apacs found evidence that users are becoming somewhat more sophisticated with regard to phishing attacks: the proportion of phishing targets either deleting phishing messages or taking no action over them increased from 75 per cent in 2006 to 82 per cent last year.

Apacs found that 93 per cent of users now have anti-virus software installed, but this figure falls to 71 per cent for anti-spyware software.

David Cresswell, the Financial Ombudsman, said it has noted a significant spike in consumer concerns over phishing in recent months - which is another indication that, at least, users are growing more aware of the problem.

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