By Rebecca JohnsonIf you have ever been part of a scam then you will appreciate the sense of loss that comes with it: the loss of confidence in yourself, the loss of trust in others and, of course, the loss of money that you may have been saving for a rainy day. It is very common for people to blame themselves for making the mistake of responding to a scam and some of us will understand those feelings of silliness and humiliation that we put on ourselves in the aftermath, unnecessarily.
Being involved in a scam isn’t just about parting with your money. Some scams will probe for your personal information; this doesn’t just include your bank and credit card details but information such as email addresses, phone numbers, date of birth, shopping preferences and your susceptibility. Perhaps you have responded to an advert in the Sunday newspaper requesting free information on a hearing aid or for solar panel installation or for a particular charity? Perhaps you have shared a post on your social media account to bring your friends good luck? If so then you may have unknowingly been involved with a scam.
Criminals use some scams to collect as much personal information about you as they can, building a profile about you that they can sell to other criminals. Often criminals collate this personal information into lists they call “suckers lists” which become a type of criminal directory for people who may be more susceptible to responding to a scam. 560,000 names have so far been identified on “suckers lists” that have been seized by the National Trading Standards Scams Team (CTSI, 2016). These criminals will know from your information how best to target you and convince you to respond to a scam.
We are all susceptible to being scammed and criminals are clever enough to stay one step ahead us. Scams are forever evolving and new scams connect with our email inboxes, telephone numbers, letter boxes and social media accounts every day.
If you have never been part of a scam then you may not appreciate the detrimental impact it has. But does this mean it’s not your concern? Unfortunately not; we are all the victims of scamming. Scamming is a problem for all of us, whether we have been part of a scam or not.
Even if we have not been subject to the individual financial and emotional impacts, we are all victims of the societal impacts of a scam. Scamming causes a huge detriment to the national public purse which is currently estimated as £5-10 billion from mass marketing scams (CTSI, 2016) and around £2 billion from doorstep scams alone (National Trading Standards Board, 2015). Our local public services are already over stretched and scamming puts additional pressure on these services, particularly Trading Standards and Adult Social Services who have a duty of care under the Care Act (2014) to safeguard adults at risk of scamming. Scamming also puts additional pressure on our strained national health service because, as evidence suggests, scams are a major factor in the rapid decline in health in older people (Donaldson, 2003).
It is important for all of us to be aware of financial scamming so that we can protect not just ourselves but our neighbours and loved ones too. July in national scams awareness month and you can join in with the conversation on Twitter using the #scamaware hashtag or find out more at https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/campaigns/current_campaigns/scams-awareness-month/scams-awareness-month/ or visit our financial scamming pages and download our information booklet
Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) (2016) Stand Against Scams [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.tradingstandards.uk/policy/standagainstscams.cfm [Accessed 29/06/16]
Donaldson, R. (2003) Experiences of Older Burglary Victims [ONLINE] Available at: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110220105210/rds.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs2/r198.pdf [Accessed: 20/01/16]
National Trading Standards Board (2015) Doorstep Crime Project Report 2014/2015, National Trading Standards Board, North Yorkshire