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36 million Brits targeted by scammers so far this year

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

Around 36 million Brits have been targeted by scammers since January, according to Citizens Advice.

It found more than two thirds of adults (68%) had been contacted so far this year by someone they think was trying to scam them.

While over 55s are most likely to be targeted, those 34 and under are almost five times more likely to fall victim to a scam than their older counterparts, the charity said.

Younger people were most likely to be targeted by text or messaging service (61%), while those over 55 were most likely to be targeted over the phone (73%).

The majority of scams (54%) were about fake deliveries or parcels, while 41% were by someone pretending to be from the government and 12% were by someone offering a fake investment or get rich quick scheme.

Citizens Advice data shows reports of scams are increasing sharply.

Comparing the first five months of 2021 with the same period in 2020, the number of scams reported to the charity has more than doubled (up 123%), scams via unsolicited emails are up seven-fold (up 667%), and scams via telephone calls have increased 60%.

In one case seen by Citizens Advice, an elderly man sent £240,000 to an account he thought belonged to his bank.

In another case, a young woman lost £2,000 to a fake cryptocurrency company after receiving a message from a friend’s hacked social media account.

To encourage people to report scams, Citizens Advice and the Consumer Protection Partnership have launched their annual Scams Awareness campaign.

Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “From fraudulent get rich quick schemes to dodgy texts, opportunistic scammers continue to prey on even the savviest of consumers. Our research shows that when it comes to scams anyone can be targeted, and anyone can be tricked.

“It’s more important than ever we all do our bit to report scams when we see them to help protect ourselves and others. By learning how scammers operate, and helping each other understand what to look out for, we can all work together to stop fraudsters in their tracks.”

Paul Scully, Consumer Minister, said: “As these figures show, absolutely anyone can be the victim of a scam. Criminals don’t care who they’re scamming, as long as they get what they want.

“You might think you’re really tech-savvy, but we’re now seeing scams so convincing they’d give a computer programmer pause for thought.

“The best way to protect ourselves from scams is to dispel the myth that only a certain type of person is at risk, share experiences, and report suspected scams to Citizens Advice and Action Fraud.”

John Herriman, chief executive of Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said: “Trading Standards professionals across the country are working around the clock to help protect the public from malicious fraudsters, and their work throughout the pandemic has been exceptional. Their work, however, is enhanced by an informed and empowered public.”

How to spot a scam

Citizens Advice consumer expert Jerry Houseago gives his top five tips to stay scam aware…

Jerry warns it might be a scam if:

  • it seems too good to be true – for example, a holiday that’s much cheaper than you’d expect
  • you suspect you’re not dealing with a real company – for example, if there’s no postal address
  • you’ve been pressured to transfer money quickly or in an unusual way – like by iTunes vouchers or a transfer service
  • you’ve been asked to give away personal information like passwords or PINs
  • you haven’t had written confirmation of what’s been agreed

If you’ve been scammed, Jerry advises:

  • talk to your bank or card company immediately if you’ve handed over any financial and sensitive information or made a payment
  • report the scam to Citizens Advice. Offline scams, like telephone, post and doorstep, to the Citizens Advice website or by calling 0808 223 1133. Report online scams to the dedicated Scams Action service either online or on 0808 250 5050
  • text scams can be reported to your mobile phone provider by forwarding it to 7726
  • also report the scam to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040