British consumers lost almost £6 million in scams in the last three months of 2015 alone, according to figures from Citizen’s Advice.
The total money reported lost was £5,926,008 and although the average loss per victim was £2,620, the most lost in a single scam was a whopping £300,000.
Of the scams reported to Citizen’s Advice, 44% took place via telephone, 33% were online and 11% through the post. Less than 10% were the result of doorstep approaches.
The research also revealed the top five reported scamming methods.
- Upfront fees (29%): Victims were asked to pay ‘upfront fees’, for example, requests to pay fees to release compensation payouts or loans, as well as payments to traders who quickly disappeared before delivering the services they had agreed to provide.
- Fake services and invoices (26%): This includes charges for removing non-existent viruses from computers and fake invoices for advertising being sent to small businesses.
- Goods not being received (9%): This involved the sales of goods through auction services and social media sites. It typically involves private and overseas sellers.
- Vishing (7%): Here cold callers obtained debit or credit card details to renew a subscription or get information on personal debts.
- Subscription traps (7%): Victims are coerced into signing up to subscription services with a free or discounted trial period, however the scammers often take a number of large payments and the company name may change.
Commenting on the findings, published in today’s Ombudsman News, Michael Ingram, senior ombudsman at the Financial Ombudsman Service says: “From my experience, it seems scammers are successful because the victim is made to believe something’s gone wrong – and things are out of control. And they’re then told they can do something about it, to regain control. For example, the fraudster might say there’s a security problem with someone’s account – and persuade them to send their money to a “safe” account, which is of course anything but safe.”
In other cases, he says that victims may be asked to pay for goods and services that are never delivered. He adds: “The warning sign is that they’re told to arrange things differently – for example, collecting goods at a “neutral” location instead of posting them, or not using a trusted payment method that provides protection.”
Based on the evidence it has seen, the Ombudsman says it advises people to be wary if:
- You are asked to move money into a ‘safe’ account. A bank would never ask you to do this.
- You are asked for PINs or passwords to stop a suspicious payment. Banks can do this remotely.
- You are asked for access to your computer. An internet service provider would not ask you to do this to fix a problem with a router.
- An online seller wants to ignore the rules or protocol of a website when arranging for payment or delivery of goods. Online sites rely on users being able to demonstrate that items have been paid for and delivered.
- If you are asked to get involved with catching fraudsters. A bank or the police would not ask victims to be involved in a ‘sting’.