Have you ever received a dodgy scam email and, just by looking at how obviously fake it was, wondered who in the world would fall for that? It’s easy to assume that most people know which messages are scams and which are not – but you would be surprised how many people are victims of fraud every year. Sometimes the reason for the success of scammers is an elaborate scheme designed to con money out of gullible people, sometimes the reason is just innocent love.
There are many different types of scams, many of which are happening online nowadays. There is the sometimes ridiculed ‘Nigerian 419 scam’ named after the section that prohibits it – where an ‘official’ government member asks for your help in retrieving a large amount of their money from a bank. For this, they need small fees from you, but promise to pay you back a substantial sum for your service as soon as they get their money. With time passing, they will need more and bigger payments, and you never get anything back in return. Another classic is the phishing email: you receive a message via email or on social media from a ‘financial institution’ or ‘authority’ asking you to use a link to go on their website to update your account. The website is designed to look as legitimate as possible, but it’s only a mask that’s created to get you to enter your bank details. The emails are often easy to spot, since most banks wouldn’t send confidential stuff via email anyway.
Fraudsters are increasingly using social media to reach out to people: investment scams on Instagram are a trend that has cost a total of more than £3 million
Despite recent efforts to prevent this kind of fraud in the UK, such as an anti-fraud police unit sponsored by the finance industry prevented £94.5m of damages, scams are still prevalent. Recently, though, the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit convicted 48 people, and compensated a total of £176,000 to victims. 32,000 compromised card numbers were recovered and a total £340,000 of assets seized.
Another type of scam involves being offered an amazing investment opportunity that is guaranteed to earn you vast amounts of money, fast. In summer 2018, a scandal circulated involving a cryptocurrency mining scheme where victims lost an average of £10,000 per person. Fraudsters are increasingly using social media to reach out to people: investment scams on Instagram are a trend that has cost a total of more than £3 million (£8,900 per person on average), with 356 reports of losses having been made in the past five months. The main target audience for investment scam campaigns seem to be 36 to 55 year old men, as they are confident, impulse-driven and tend to take risks when investing. Another targeted group are the elderly: in 2016-17 there were 40,487 frauds affecting people aged over 60. However, these numbers seem to be heavily underestimated: Professor Keith Brown from Bournemouth University says that the reports account for only 5% of the true total.
The average age of victims of romance fraud is 50 and in 63% of cases, they are women. According to Action Fraud, they lose twice as much on average as males
One of the trickiest scams is when you are deceived by romance. Middle-aged women are especially in danger of this: The average age of victims of romance fraud is 50 and in 63% of cases, they are women. According to Action Fraud, they lose twice as much on average as males. Last year, the average loss from romance frauds was £11,145. In 2015, a woman from London who thought she was in a relationship gave her fake-partner a staggering £1.6 million. The man claimed to be a wealthy engineer needing funds for projects in Africa. The takeaways here are to never send money to someone online whom you have not met, and consider carefully before posting personal information which could be used to manipulate or bribe you – so you might want to think twice about posting about your unsuccessful love life on social media.