Despite high numbers of scams and the huge financial and emotional impact on victims, these crimes are severely underreported. NTS’s research showed that when people realised they’d become a victim of a scam, the most common feelings were being ‘angry’ with themselves, (46%), feeling ‘stupid’ (40%) and ‘embarrassed’ (38%). Fewer than a third (32%) then reported the crime to an authority such as the police, and 42% did not tell their bank. Two thirds didn’t even tell a relative or friend they’d become a victim.
For those that did report to the authorities, 47% were made to feel stupid or embarrassed. Only 34% felt fully heard and understood, and just 38% felt strongly that their case was taken seriously.
NTS believes it is victims’ shame, combined with the worry that they will not be supported if they come forward, that prevents so many reporting these crimes. This underreporting means the scale and impact of fraud and scams is not fully understood, victim support services are not funded properly, and a sense of blame continues to fall on the victim – all of which effectively gives criminals the green light to keep offending.
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 (20%) believe they are likely to become a victim of a scam in the next five years. That’s why NTS is launching its #NoBlameNoShame campaign urging people to talk about scams to reduce the stigma, making victims feel more able to talk and report.
NTS is also calling on the Government to end the current postcode lottery for fraud victims, by ensuring every individual is properly supported, with tailored help depending on their needs. Support should be improved across the spectrum, from better education to prevent people becoming victims of scams, to stronger intervention to prevent victims being repeatedly targeted.
Dr Elisabeth Carter[iv], who co-authored the Coercion and Control in Financial Abuse report and is an Associate Professor of criminology and forensic linguist at Kingston University, said:
“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”.
The research also found that criminals most often try to scam people via a phone call, followed by email, text or WhatsApp, and then social media. The landline phone in particular remains a key route to reaching those consumers affected by vulnerability – separate data shows that households with a call blocker received an average of 120 scam and nuisance calls each in the last year alone[v] with the most common scams being ‘insurance’ followed by ‘home improvements’ and then ‘tech support’.
· [iv] Dr Elisabeth Carter’s latest research, published in 2023 in The British Journal of Criminology shows the links between fraud and domestic abuse and coercive control: “Confirm Not Command: Examining Fraudsters’ Use of Language to Compel Victim Compliance in Their Own Exploitation” Open Access here: https://doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azac098
· [v] Data from trueCall shows that from May 2022-April 2023 there were on average 9,491 trueCall call blocker units in the UK collecting data on calls. During this time, 1,138,374 calls were classified as scam or nuisance calls.
Let’s talk about scams – top tips:
- The first conversation with a scam victim is key. Never victim blame or shame.
- If you get a phone call or message that you know is a scam, tell your friends and family about it. This will help raise awareness– and will show that anyone can be targeted. Take away the shame.
- But avoid sharing ‘warnings’ that have gone viral on social media unless you know the source – these could inadvertently be spreading scam content and misinformation.
- Chat about scams at the dinner table or when meeting with friends – perhaps about a new trend you’ve read about, like cryptocurrency or WhatsApp ‘friend in need’ scams.
- At community gatherings such as lunch clubs, religious events or drop-in centres, consider having a discussion on scams. Find out more at www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/become-a-scamchampion
- If you work with young people, share information about scams – young adults are the most likely to have been targeted – and to have lost money.
- If you know a person who may be affected by vulnerability and you think they may have been a victim or are at risk, bring up the topic gently. You can broach the subject by mentioning a news report or example you’ve seen that sounds similar to their situation. Make sure they know where to get help if they’re worried.
- Ensure everyone in your family knows scams should be reported to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk or on 0300 123 2040. For advice about scams you can call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133, or use their online tool at https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/scams/reporting-a-scam/.
- Visit www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk for information and updates on the latest scams.
If you would like to arrange a Scambusters Session for a local group, please contact the Shetland Public Protection Team on 01595 744411 or e mail [email protected]