UK banks reported a 55 percent increase in losses from fraudulent online transactions for the first half of the year, mostly from phishing scams, according to an industry trade group.

Losses totalled £22.5m, up from £14.5m from the first six months of 2005, according to the Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS).

The loss figure isn't broken down by individual financial institutions. APACS' 31 members, including HSBC and Barclays, account for about 97 percent of bank and credit-card transactions within the UK.

The figures underscore continuing problems with phishing, where criminals try to capture financial details through fraudulent emails and sophisticated fake banking websites. Account numbers, log-ins and passwords are often then sold online to other fraudsters who try to turn them into profit.

More than half of consumers who shop online don't verify that ecommerce sites are using a secure connection, often shown by an "https" in the URL (uniform resource locator) or a padlock in the Internet Explorer browser, APACS said. In the UK, some 26.5 million people undertook an estimated 372 million online transactions in 2005, the organisation said.

APACS did have some good news. Phone, mail order and Internet fraud increased by 5 percent overall, but that growth was markedly slower than the 29 percent jump between the first half of 2004 and the first half of 2005. APACS put the total loss through from January to June this year at £95.3m.