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One in five scam victims lose £1,000 or more

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

A fifth of scam victims reveal they’ve lost £1,000 or more while a bleaker picture of the scale of online fraud sees nine in 10 adults come across suspicious content which could rob them of their savings.

An estimated 43 million UK adults have encountered suspected scams online, while two in five said they know of someone who has fallen victim to one of the ploys.

The figures from telecoms regulator Ofcom, revealed that nearly half of those polled said they had been drawn in by an online scam, while a quarter had lost money as a result.

For one in five, they had been scammed out of £1,000 or more.

As well as the financial loss, the scams left victims with an emotional impact as a third said the experience led to a negative effect on their mental health.

Ofcom revealed that a quarter of victims first encountered scam or fraud on social media, while 30% said it was via email.

Impersonation fraud was the most common type (51%), followed by counterfeit goods scams (42%), investment, pension or ‘get rich quick’ scams (40%) as well as computer software service or ransomware scams (37%). For those encountering counterfeit goods scams, they’re most likely to lose money.

It also noted influencer posts or videos as well ad online adverts.

Men and younger people most likely to encounter fraudulent content

Elsewhere, men (89%), and those aged 18-34 (92%) are most likely to encounter content suspected to be fraudulent, a higher percentage than the average (87%).

But Ofcom noted that 17% of those who experienced a potential scam or fraud online didn’t take any action, as they believed it wouldn’t be acted upon or even make a difference. Some didn’t know who or where to report it to.

However, the majority of people said that online tech firms should have more responsibility to ensuring user safety and tackling scams – higher than the number who said the police or Ofcom.

They suggested that platforms should send an online alert warning users that the content of messages had come from an unverified account holder which would help prevent people falling victim to scammers.

As part of the Online Safety Bill which is currently making its way through Parliament, tech firms will need to do more to lessen the harm for users.

Ofcom will also have new powers to ensure platforms comply with their new online safety duties, and will develop guidance and codes of practice to assist their compliance.

Richard Wronka, Ofcom director, online safety policy, said: “Falling victim to online fraud can have a devastating impact on people’s financial and mental well-being.

“The Online Safety Bill will place new obligations on online services to protect their users against online fraud and scams. Today’s report provides crucial evidence that will help to inform our approach to implementing those new laws when they arrive.”

Six tips to stay safe online

Rio Stedford, financial planning expert at Quilter, said: “Today’s figures from Ofcom lay bare how prolific fraud and scams have become in recent years as technology and the internet has allowed them to become increasingly sophisticated. Unfortunately, Governments, regulators and businesses are playing catch up, and as one scammer is defeated, another quickly pops up elsewhere in a perverse game of whac-a-mole.

“Being scammed can feel like an incredibly embarrassing event for people and they are likely not to tell friends and family out of fear. However, we need to tackle this taboo and look out for each other, especially those with vulnerabilities, as awareness is key to preventing people from being hooked in by fraudsters.”

Stedford shared these six top tips for dodging scammers:

  1. Check the FCA’s register to make sure you are dealing with a real financial services firm. A phone number will be listed which you can use to verify the firm is real.
  2. Check the FCA’s warning list, which is updated daily and provides a list of every clone firm scam identified, to check whether there have been any cases of impersonation fraud with this particular firm.
  3. Consider how you were contacted. If you have been contacted by phone, email or text out of the blue without even looking for an investment then it’s highly likely it is a scam.
  4. Be incredibly wary of any investment comparison site that tries to get your attention by using an advert on a search engine and that asks you to input your details. You have no control over where your details go, and to whom they are sold.
  5. Check for the little details. Look for any unexpected words in domain names, email addresses or in brochures. If you receive an email from someone, check exactly who it has come from. If it’s a scam, the email address may be filled with random numbers or be misspelled.
  6. Don’t let yourself be pressured into taking action or sending funds to anyone. If in doubt, pause and talk to someone you trust.