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Changing the story on scams

3 August 2017

Scam report [ 0.89 mb]

Consumers are being targeted by increasingly sophisticated scams across all channels of communication, from copycat websites seeking to extract personal information and emails purporting to be from their bank, to doorstep crime and letters promoting fake competitions, lotteries and investment opportunities. Fraud is now the most common offence in the UK.

Our report, [Changing the story on scams] shows that almost three-quarters (72%) of people have been targeted by scammers in the last 2 years, either via mail, phone calls, text messages, emails, online, and face to face on their own doorsteps. Over a third (37%) have been targeted 5 times or more.

Most people are confident that they are able to spot a scam, but more than 1 in 8 (14%) of those targeted had been drawn into the last scam targeted at them. A third (33%) of these people lost money as a result of the scam, and just over 1 in 10 people (11%) know friends or family members who have lost money to a scam.

Despite the growing problem with fraud in the UK, our research shows that almost half (45%) of people have taken no action to protect themselves against scams in the last 12 months, and two-thirds (65%) have taken no action to help protect friends or family. Take up of the Telephone and Mailing Preference Services designed to help people block scams is low. Older people appear to be less confident in their ability to spot a scam, and less likely to take measures to protect themselves when compared to other groups.

Reporting rates are also low relative to the incidence of scams. This makes it more difficult for the authorities and industry to identify and take action against fraudsters, and restricts their ability to understand who is most likely to fall victim to a scam and target awareness campaigns accordingly.

Recommendations

  • Industry and government agencies should work together to improve reporting systems, examining the possibility of a centralised reporting function for enhanced data sharing

  • To tackle low reporting rates, industry and advocacy bodies need to do more to help people understand the value their reporting has in preventing scams and catching fraudsters.

  • Consumer education campaigns, including Scams Awareness month, are still needed in order to raise awareness of what constitutes different types of scams and ways to easily advise people on changing scam tactics. These campaigns have an important part to play in helping to increase reporting, while tackling stigma and will help us to create better, more targeted campaigns that protect consumers.