Scams come in different shapes and sizes. Every day people are targeted by someone trying to extort money out of them – by post, telephone, text, email or on the doorstep. Some of these approaches are clearly scams but others are much harder to spot. It’s important to highlight how professional these approaches have become and that many of us will fall victim to scams.

What is a scam?

A scam is a scheme to try to seal money, personal information or data from a person or organisation. Other names for a scam include fraud, hoax, con, swindle and cheat. You can find examples of common scams here.

General facts about scam:

Estimates show that reports of scams and fraud are up this year, with an estimated 3.6 million cases (an 8% rise).

£10.9 billion – the estimated amount lost each year to scams and fraud.

Figures from City of London Police show that between 2015 and 2016, victims of dating fraud lost a total of £40 million. On average, victims lost £10,000 each and almost half (45%) report that falling victim to dating fraud had a “significant impact on their health or financial wellbeing”.

The government campaign, Cyberaware, reports that while 82% of households have double locks or deadlocks, while only 32% follow government advice to use three random words to create a strong password.

 

Statistics by demographic: 

Young people

While 18–24 year olds do not make up the largest group of victims of scams, this group has seen a sharp rise in numbers.

The fraud prevention organisation CIFAS found that identity fraud victims aged 30 and under were up by 52% in 2015. Yet they also found that 50% of 18–24 year olds say they would never fall for an online scam versus 37% of the public as a whole.

Recent Citizens Advice research found that over half of adults 18–24 would be unlikely

to report a scam. Social media is a common way in which young people encounter a

scam. Action Fraud reported that in 2015, there was a 64% increase on the previous year in the number of people approached on Instagram.

This group are more likely to be victim of modelling and talent scams. Other common scams targeting this age group include subscription traps (especially online through social media), identity fraud, job scams and general online fraud.

 

Life established

A third of all victims of scams are 41–60 year olds. This age group accounts for the highest percentage of prior fraud victims (34.3%)

While they are targeted by a wide range of scams, there are certain scams they are most vulnerable to. These include investment fraud, phishing and other banking scams, property scams and pension

liberation scams.

Victims of cyber crime fraud are also more likely to be aged between 41–60.

The median loss to cyber crime fraud victims has increased between 2013/14 and 2015/2016 from £166 to £270.

 

Over 70s

75 is the average age of reported scam victims.

£4500 was found to be the average financial loss for those between 75–79 years old.

Those over-70 have the highest reported detriment from a number of different types of scams.

Citizens Advice data shows that clients who had been victim to a scam or fraud were more likely to be older, with over a third aged 65+.

Those aged 61–80 were more likely to be victims of investment fraud. This type of fraud has a huge detriment with a median loss to victims of £10,500 compared to a median loss across all scams of £395.

 

Socially isolated

It has been recently reported that the names and addresses of nearly 300,000 people nationally are on lists which are being sold between criminals to use as targets for scams. Research has found that 9 in 10 people on these target lists are unaware that they are being targeted. Often, people who are socially isolated are not able to connect to the support or help to prevent this.

According to Citizens Advice data, when compared to the general population disabled people and those who have a long term health condition (LTHC) were more likely to be victims of phishing and other banking scams (37% vs 29%) and prizes and lottery scams (41% vs 29%). Though these factors do not necessarily make them socially isolated, they may contribute to it. The Office of National Statistics found that those in poor health are more than 2.5 times more likely to report feeling lonely than those reporting good health.

 

What can you do to tackle scams?

There are three things that consumers can do if they suspect they’re the target of a scam:

 

  • Get advice from Citizens Advice consumer service 03454 04 05 06, or 03454 04 05 05 for a Welsh-speaking adviser: Get online consumer advice and information at www.citizensadvice.org.uk. To report a problem to Trading Standards, contact the Citizens Advice consumer service. Trading standards are responsible for protecting consumers and the community against rogue and unfair traders.

  • Report scams and suspected scams to Action Fraud 0300 123 2040 www.actionfraud.police.uk. Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime. (If debit cards, online banking or cheques are involved in the scam the consumer’s first step should be to contact their bank or credit card company)

  • Tell family, friends, neighbours so that they can avoid scams.

Consumers can also do the following to cut down on unwanted contacts.

 

Phone

  • Register their number with the Telephone Preference Service at www.tpsonline.org.uk or 0345 070 0707. They can also register their mobile by texting 'TPS' and their email address to 85095.
  • Report unsolicited marketing calls to the Information Commissioner’s Office – www.ico.org.uk/concerns/marketing, or 0303 123 1113.
  • Use a product to block telephone calls:
    • Your phone company may have a blocking service or help available to protect people from nuisance calls. Call your company’s customer service helpline to find out.
    • TrueCall, www.truecall.co.uk
    • CallBlocker, www.cprcallblocker.co.uk.

 

Mail

  • People who want to report potential scam mail can write to Royal Mail at: Freepost Scam Mail. Phone: 03456 113 413, or email scam.mail@royalmail.com. They can also report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service.
  • The Mailing Preference Service (MPS) is free and may help reduce unsolicited mail – www.mpsonline.org.uk or 0207 291 3310.
  • To opt out from receiving ‘Door to Door’ unaddressed mail delivered by Royal Mail: optout@royalmail.com or 0345 266 0858.
  • To opt out of deliveries from unaddressed mail distributors consumers can register with “Your Choice” preference scheme Direct Marketing Association (UK) Ltd. At yourchoice@dma.org.uk or 020 7291 3300.
  • No cold calling – door stickers. Some Trading Standards services or community police teams provide these.