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2020 named worst year ever for scams

John Fitzsimons
Written By:
John Fitzsimons

Last year saw the highest number of scams on record, according to new research from Barclays.

The study found that fraudulent activity jumped by a whopping 66% between July and December, with the bank suggesting that scammers saw the opportunity to take advantage of pandemic-induced uncertainty across the country.

Barclays’ data found that investment scams shared top spot for the highest value claims, with 29% of such claims. It noted that these scams often centre on cloned webpages, so that victims believe they are using a legitimate website and are duped into sharing their personal or account details. 

However, impersonation scams also accounted for 29% of high value claims. This is where a banking customer is talked into moving money out of their account and into a supposed ‘safe account’ by a scammer, having been convinced that their own account is somehow at risk. Impersonation scams were not only behind some of the biggest value frauds, but were also the most commonly recorded scam by volume for Barclays, accounting for almost a quarter (22%) of frauds.

While scams are on the rise, there are concerns that Brits are too embarrassed to come forward when they have been duped. A poll by Barclays found that more than half (54%) of people who have fallen victim to a scam have been left feeling too embarrassed to report it.

Given that one in three of us have already been tricked by such schemes, that’s an awful lot of people who are keeping quiet about the money they’ve lost.

Previous research has suggested that men are most at risk of scams, while the introduction of Covid-19 vaccines has provided yet more opportunities for scammers to dupe victims out of their money.

Jim Winters, head of fraud at Barclays, said: “With more and more Brits finding themselves the victim of fraud and scams, Barclays is challenging the stigma associated with being embarrassed and encouraging people to speak out about their experiences.

“There are actionable steps you can take to help protect yourself against being scammed. If you’re suspicious, talk to someone you trust. Don’t be afraid to admit to being duped into a scam. When you receive a suspicious email, phone call or text message, never assume it’s who you think. And most importantly, don’t ignore your concerns. If ever in doubt, speak out.”

How to protect yourself from scams

There are plenty of practical things you can do which will reduce your chances of falling victim to the most common forms of scam. 

  • Be suspicious ‒ if you are contacted out of the blue, whether it’s for an investment opportunity or supposed warnings about your bank account being compromised, then you should immediately be on your guard.
  • Is it too good to be true? Investment scams often tempt victims by promising returns that are simply unrealistic. If the promised returns sound too good to be true, they probably are.
  • Phishing emails, where scammers pretend to be from a legitimate organisation, will push you towards clicking links within the emails. This will then either take you to a cloned website or install malware on your machine. So don’t be tempted into clicking.
  • Scammers will pile pressure on you to act quickly. It might be that the killer investment they are promising is only available if you act today, or perhaps your account is at immediate risk. It’s crucial that you take your time and don’t allow them to rush you into making an expensive mistake.
  • We are all fallible, and there may be times when you fall victim to a scammer. Staying silent is the worst thing you can do though ‒ it’s important that you immediately report it, not only to your bank, but to a fraud prevention body like Action Fraud.