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Four in 10 UK adults targeted by scammers

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Just over four in 10 UK adults have experienced a scam attempt in the last year, research from a financial services firm shows.

Canada Life revealed 41% of the population have been targeted and 40% of those attempts were from fraudsters contacting people by email, text or voicemail, known as ‘phishing’, ‘smishing’ or ‘vishing’.

Overall, one in two UK adults have or know someone who has experienced a financial scam attempt in the last year, equating to 26.8 million people.

Of these, 3.6 million people went on to suffer a financial scam, losing an average of £4,715 in the process.

In total, £17bn was lost to scammers and more than a quarter of victims (26%) were unable to recover their losses. However, two in five did get their money back.

AI enabling scammers

The most popular cons were tax or debt collection attempts (32%), advance fee requests (25%) which is when someone claims you’re inheriting a sum of money that requires an upfront fee or your bank details to proceed, and ‘hello mum’ scams (23%). This is when a scammer poses as a child or grandchild requesting an urgent bill or payment to be made.

The study found that young people are also more likely to have lost money through a scam, which is backed up by separate research from NatWest which showed one in three students are targeted by scammers.

However, those who are aged 55 or over are more likely to have been targeted (48%) in a scam attempt but are less likely to have been a victim and lost money (9%) than younger demographics.

But the findings show that 38% older people (those aged 55 and over) didn’t contact anyone after experiencing a scam attempt.

Of those adults who experienced a scam attempt, 7% said this was via AI. Two in three (67%) UK adults agreed that AI will make financial scams more sophisticated, while half believe AI will make it more likely that they would fall for a financial scam.

‘Field day for scammers’

Julia Peake, tax and estate planning specialist at Canada Life, said: “With the cost-of-living crisis continuing to squeeze many households, it’s a real field day for criminals and scammers to target vulnerable people.

“They are opportunistic and play on insecurities, family connections and fear, taking advantage of crises and market disruptions both home or around the world, and the number of people being targeted seems to be going up.”

“With the development of AI and fake adverts, the range of communication and types of financial scams are becoming ever more intrusive and sophisticated. Martin Lewis was recently a victim of this and took to the airwaves to air his concern and raise awareness with the public.”

Tips to avoid financial scams

Canada Life shared some tips on how to avoid losing money to scammers:

  1. If you receive an offer to help you access your pension savings before age 55 through ‘pension loans’ and ‘free pension reviews’, don’t engage. It’s very rare for anyone to access a pension before the age of 55.
  2. Ignore warnings that a deal is limited, and you must act now. This is a pressure tactic, and making any financial decisions should not be done under pressure.
  3. HMRC will never contact you by email, phone or text informing you of a tax refund, so simply delete or ignore any contact made this way – HMRC will only contact you via post.
  4. If you are called and you think there is something not right, hang up the phone.
  5. Most phone providers are part of a scheme that allows customers to report suspicious text messages for free by forwarding it to 7726 (it spells out SPAM), so get in touch if you’re unsure about a message you receive.
  6. Be cautious around any recommendation to take a large amount of money, or your whole pension pot in a lump sum to invest it elsewhere. Also be very wary of unsolicited offers of ‘amazing’ investment returns.