2021 has been a prolific year for scammers which, as ever, is terrible news for hardworking people like you.
In fact, according to industry body UK Finance in their half-year fraud update, criminals used fraudulent means to steal £754 million in the first six months of 2021. This figure is 30% higher than during the same period in 2020.
Worryingly, these figures are aside from a further £736 million that banks reported having managed to keep from being taken through their robust security and anti-fraud systems.
The financial toll of scams is undoubtedly serious, but research by consumer group Which? has also revealed another side to it: the impact that fraud can have on your wellbeing, rather than just on your pocket.
This is no trivial matter, as the research found that scams cost an estimated £9.3 billion a year in their effect on victims’ wellbeing.
So, find out how scams affect your wellbeing, and what you can do to keep yourself safe.
Scam victims’ wellbeing falls by £2,500 a year
The £9.3 billion figure for the impact of scams on victims’ wellbeing is a cause for concern, as the longer-lasting impact is even more detrimental to your finances.
Using 17,000 responses from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Crime Survey for England and Wales, the Which? report assigned wellbeing an economic value based on the social impact of being scammed. This approach has been approved by the Treasury.
The results show that, on average, victims of scams experience a decline in wellbeing of more than £2,500 a year.
For victims of online fraud, these figures are even higher, climbing to nearly £3,700 a year on average.
These figures are significantly higher than the average amount lost to fraud itself. Estimates vary but the average is thought to be around £600 for each victim.
The research also found that victims reported higher levels of anxiety and lower levels of happiness. Even worse, a small proportion said that their physical health had subsequently declined, too.
That means, aside from losing a tangible amount of money, scams continue to have an effect long after the actual event.
Protecting your money and your wellbeing
As the research shows, protecting your money is also a case of protecting your individual welfare.
Fortunately, when it comes to fraud, there are plenty of actions you can take to help protect yourself so that you don’t become a victim, too.
Keep your details secure
Firstly, always keep bank and payment details secure. Never input your details onto sites that you don’t know and never give them to cold callers unless you’re certain that the person you’re speaking to is genuine.
Learn the common signs of “phishing”
“Phishing” is a common online scammer’s trick that uses things such as fake email addresses and websites that pose as genuine to convince you to enter your details.
To avoid being caught out, learn and then watch out for the hallmarks of phishing attempts. These include:
- Inconsistencies in domain names or email addresses, such as extra characters like dots or dashes
- Poor spelling and grammar in emails
- An unfamiliar tone or greeting from a company you’re used to dealing with
- Suspicious links or attachments.
Similarly, never click links in emails if you’re unsure whether they’re real. Always navigate to the genuine site through a search engine if you receive an email that says you need to login or check information on an online account.
Take your time
One of the most common ways that scammers will try to get access to your money is by rushing you into making decisions. This is called “push-payment fraud” and involves fraudsters using a false sense of urgency to make you act before you’ve had time to think.
If you receive an email or phone call out of the blue with someone telling you there’s time pressure to make a decision with your money, try to stay level-headed and take your time.
Real financial institutions will never rush you into making a decision, such as moving your money to another account.
If possible, speak to a friend or family member to help you work out whether something is real or not. It’s often best to take a breath and pause so that you don’t get caught out by push-payment fraud.
Challenge potential fraudsters
Another effective way to ward off scammers is to be assertive and challenge their identity.
Just as they’ll never try to rush you, your bank or building society will understand if you’re hesitant about something and want to check the identity of who you’re speaking to.
Ask for proof of identity from anyone who contacts you and don’t allow them to explain away if they say they can’t provide it.
If you’re still unsure of someone, contact them through a phone number, email address, or website that you know is genuine so that you can be sure they are who they claim to be.
Think you’ve fallen for a scam?
If you ever think you’ve fallen victim to a scam, then don’t panic. There’s still plenty you can do that could help to secure your money.
The first thing you need to do is contact your bank or building society and let them know what’s happened. It’s important to do this quickly as this gives you the best chance of getting your money back.
You should also consider changing any logins and passwords on accounts that you think the scammer may now have access to.
After that, make sure you report the scam to Action Fraud, the UK’s reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime.
Reporting to Action Fraud won’t actually help you get your money back, but it could help prevent someone else from giving their details away to the particular scam that caught you.
If you’d like help further securing your financial situation, please get in touch with us at Lightside Financial Planning.
Email email@example.com or call 0151 372 0161 to find out more about how we could help you.