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Cost to scam victims’ well-being calculated at £9bn a year

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The cost to people’s well-being from falling victim to a scam can be calculated at £9.3bn a year, consumer group Which? has found.

The estimated average drop in well-being for victims of fraud is the equivalent of £2,509 per year and £3,684 for online fraud.

That’s significantly more than the average financial sum lost to fraud of £600, Which? said.

The group analysed more than 17,000 responses to the Office for National Statistics’ Crime Survey for England and Wales to establish the well-being impact associated with being scammed.

The results were then applied to an approach to assessing social impacts approved by the Treasury earlier this year. The model allows researchers to value changes in well-being in monetary terms.

As well as a drop in life satisfaction, the research found being a victim of fraud was also associated with significantly higher levels of anxiety and lower levels of happiness. It was also associated with people self-reporting worse general health.

Consumers lost more than £100m to investment fraud, which often starts online, in the first half of 2021, according to UK Finance.

The government’s draft Online Safety Bill seeks to establish a new regulatory framework to tackle harmful content online, including content that has a significant adverse physical or psychological impact on users.

The draft Bill includes measures to tackle user-generated fraud like romance scams, but omits the scam adverts used to hook in thousands of victims of investment fraud and other cyber-enabled scams every year.

Which? believes government plans to tackle online scams are not comprehensive enough to deal with the threats faced by consumers and do not reflect the scale and urgency of the problem.

Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy at Which?, said: “Our research shows that scam victims suffer a significant drop in well-being when they are targeted by criminals. This brings home the scale of the emotional and psychological harm that victims suffer when they are defrauded.

“The government must not ignore the huge impact an epidemic of fraud is having on our society. Scam adverts must be included in the Online Safety Bill and ministers must set out plans for laws and regulations that will make online platforms use their highly sophisticated technology to effectively tackle harmful content on their sites.”

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