As scams become more common, get better at spotting the fraudsters

Have you ever recieved one of those emails or texts that looks almost legitimate and clicked the link without even stopping to think?

It happened to someone close to me recently whose WhatsApp was hacked through such an attack and it shows no sign of abating. Fraudsters have now targeted more than three-quarters of UK consumers.

According to new research from information company TransUnion, 76% of respondents reported being targeted by fraud.

While there are signs that we are getting better at spotting fraud and scams, these approaches are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

As a result of this increased sophistication, the average financial loss associated with a scam has more than doubled in the past 12 months.

One way fraudsters have become better at scamming their victims is to impersonate trusted organisations, including the Royal Mail or HMRC.

Common scams include requesting payment of bogus charges or outstanding fees.

Another common scam involves the threat of disconnecting Internet services if a bogus fine is not immediately paid.

One reason we are more likely to fall for a scam in 2021 is the speed with which we can reply.

The research found that 20% of consumers now respond to digital messages, including emails, text messages and social media adverts, within only 2 minutes of their receipt.

Gen Z adults are the fastest responders, and accordingly, also the most targeted generation. So Parents, make sure you are teaching your children about how to spot scams and phishing texts and emails.

Scam victims lost a collective £8.5 billion, or £1,149 each on average, more than double the figure from a year earlier.

The number falling victim to fraud rose from 12% in May 2020 to 14% in May 2021.

Most likely to scam victims are social media adverts selling hoax products, conning 6% of people.

One in 20 respondents said they have paid false charity donations or fallen for a typical text scam, handing over personal or financial information.

John Cannon, managing director of fraud and ID at TransUnion in the UK, said:

“Scammers prey on consumers in times of vulnerability – such as the COVID-19 pandemic – and this coupled with an increasing reliance on tech has enabled fraudsters to flourish. Our research has shown that one in seven UK consumers (14%) have fallen victim, perhaps because they’re acting too hastily, often triggered by panic.”

Despite the bad news uncovered by this research, there are signs that people are getting better at spotting the signs of scams.

79% of respondents said they are generally more vigilant, and a similar number look closely at the language used in texts or emails to decide if they are authentic.

Kelli Fielding, TransUnion’s managing director of consumer interactive in the UK, adds:

“It’s great to see consumers are getting more scam-savvy but given the volume of fraud attempts happening at the moment, it’s essential to remain vigilant. What we’re seeing is that whilst the rate of consumers falling victim hasn’t changed significantly, the scams have become more sophisticated and the losses much greater and that’s worrying, particularly at a time when many are still dealing with financial uncertainty resulting from the pandemic.

“However, it’s really positive to note that our survey found more than one in 10 consumers (12%) had been protected by their bank or finance provider, which stopped them losing money after falling for a scam. Consumers need to play their part alongside the banks by knowing what to look out for.”