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Mental health sufferers twice as likely to fall into debt

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People who experience mental health problems are twice as likely to fall into debt due to fraud, and they’re less likely to get their money back, research reveals.

One in five fraud victims with mental health conditions were too embarrassed to report the incident to their bank, according to a survey by consumer champion Which?

With victims staying silent, crimes go unreported, fraudsters go free and the duped are less likely to get their money back.

Which? found that six in 10 victims of fraud with a diagnosed mental health problem got all or some of their money back. But this compares to two thirds of victims with no mental health condition.

Meanwhile, its research also found that a third of fraud victims had to borrow money from friends or family, compared to one in five with no diagnosed mental health condition. Further, they were twice as likely to borrow money from a bank (11% vs 5%).

Elsewhere, the survey of 1,008 victims of fraud in the UK who lost money in the last two years found that those with mental health problems were almost twice as likely to not have money for essentials (29%) and to go into debt (26%) as a result of fraud.

By contrast, the numbers for those without mental health concerns stood at 15% and 12% respectively.

‘I feel stupid and ashamed to be scammed’

Talking of their experience of being defrauded, one person told Which?: “It was horrific. I lost my job because of it, and a lot of other things in my personal life went downhill. It wasn’t a pleasant experience at all and I still feel like it impacts my trust in people.”

Another said: “I feel stupid and ashamed to be scammed. It has affected how I see myself and has led to bouts of depression and anxiety.”

A third victim said: “It was the first time I really trusted this misleading website and I was overwhelmed by self-criticism. Luckily, my bank dealt with it very quickly and returned all the money taken out. It would be nice if there was a phone number to chat about this experience to get counselling to soothe my anxiety.”

A fourth said: “It has destroyed my mental health completely as fraud happened to me three times in a year. I’m still paying for it mentally and financially.”

It comes as figures from UK finance, the banking trade body, revealed that criminals stole £610m to scams in the first half of 2022, as they come up with new ways to defraud targets as the cost-of-living bites.

And last month, under the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) proposals, banks will be forced to reimburse anyone who loses more than £100 to bank transfer or payment fraud, apart from in exceptional circumstances.

The PSR has proposed that any fraud victims deemed to be vulnerable should be reimbursed without exception, meaning those with mental health problems should expect to receive extra support.

‘Rules can’t come soon enough’

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “Our survey shows fraud victims experiencing mental health problems are being failed, with devastating effects on their well-being and finances.

“New rules to make reimbursement of bank transfer fraud mandatory can’t come soon enough. They must be backed with tough enforcement measures for any banks that flout them and fail to treat their customers fairly.

“The government must also bring the Online Safety Bill back to parliament quickly to ensure vital protections against the flood of fraudulent adverts on the world’s biggest social media sites and search engines become law.”

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