Fulfilled living in later life
Scam victims’ silence endangers others

Monday 10th June 2024

Scam victims’ silence endangers others

Louise Morse

National Trading Standards (NTS) has launched a campaign, ‘#Noblame/noshame’ to encourage people who have been caught in a scam to talk about it. Only 31% of victims report it to an authority, which means others aren’t warned and gives criminals the green light to keep offending. NTS says that this silence means the scale and impact of scams is not fully understood, victim support services are not funded properly, and a sense of blame continues to fall on victims.

73% of UK adults – or 40 million people – have been targeted by scams, with 35% - or 19 million – losing money. The average amount is £1,730, and it isn’t reported because victims feel ‘angry’ with themselves, (46%); ‘stupid’ (40%), and ‘embarrassed’ (38%). Two thirds didn’t even tell a relative or friend about it. And for those who did report it to an authority, 47% were made to feel stupid or embarrassed, and only 34% felt fully heard and understood, with 38% feeling strongly that their case wasn’t taken seriously.

NTS says that this vicious cycle of shame, underreporting and under resourcing may also be contributing to a sense of helplessness in society – an incredible one in five adults believe they are likely to become a victim of a scam in the next five years.

Dr Elisabeth Carter, an Associate Professor of criminology and forensic linguist at Kingston University who co-authored the report ‘Coercion and Control in Financial Abuse’ says: ‘Fraud criminals use language that is designed to manipulate power and distort reality so that their requests make sense and do not cause alarm. The financial impact of this crime is only part of it – the psychological impact of being defrauded can be devastating and long lasting. We need to recognise that victims of fraud are not to blame, and see this crime for what it is – a type of abuse’.

Impersonation scams

In the UK, £1.3 billion was lost to online fraudsters last year. Scamwatch has information about the different types of scams, but to my mind, the most difficult to spot is where someone you know is impersonated. I’ve mentioned in an early e-send, the possibility of artificial intelligence impersonating someone you know and calling you to ask for money. You may get a text from your daughter, for example, saying she’s had to get a new phone, and this is her new number, and then a call or text asking you to transfer money to a bank, giving you the details. My family and I have agreed a ‘password’ for these types of calls, where we can ask, ‘what’s the password?’

Recently I received an email from a trusted friend asking if I could get a John Lewis Gift Card for someone whose birthday it was that day. He’d tried but couldn’t get it (Amazon) to work. It wasn’t asking for money; and it was a voucher for goods, not cash. (I’ve learnt since that John Lewis will give you the cash if you ask.) I emailed him later to say I’d done that and entered the email he’d given on to the gift card, only to receive another email from him saying that his laptop had been stolen and he hadn’t made the request. It wasn’t surprising then, that on the email I’d received the email address and the signature were correct! I reported it to the Bank, and hope they’ll be able to trace it and claim it back. And as for telling people - my friends and family know they haven’t heard the last of it from me!

A strong warning sign to note is that scams always have a sense of urgency. My friend’s friend needed it that day because it was her birthday. If you receive anything with that kind of ‘push’, close it down, fast.