UK payments body Apacs is urging online banking customers to remain extra vigilant following a 180 per cent surge in phishing emails in the past year.

Apacs, said there were 20,682 “phishing” frauds involving banks and building societies reported in the first six months of the year, against 7,224 a year earlier.

Communications Director Sandra Quinn said: “We strongly urge banking customers to make sure they remain wary of online scams such as unsolicited emails claiming to be from their bank, and to only use a fully protected PC with regularly updated anti-virus software and a firewall installed and switched on.”

Phishing frauds involve fraudsters sending out bogus e-mails to people, claiming to come from their banks, and inviting them to click on a link to a fake bank website. The aim is to lure the bank customers into revealing their pin numbers and other bank account details.

Despite the rapid rise in phishing scams, Apacs said that overall losses through online banking fraud fell to £22.6m in 2007 from £33.5m in 2006, representing a 33 per cent decline.