Impact of scams on wellbeing costs £9bn a year, says Which?

Victims of fraud report higher levels of anxiety and lower levels of happiness after being scammed

Kate Ng
Monday 18 October 2021 09:53

The cost to people who report suffering from ill health after being scammed can be calculated at £9.3bn a year, consumer group Which? has said.

This is equivalent to £2,509 a year for each victim. However, those who fall for online fraud could experience a higher impact.

Which? appointed consultants to examine 17,000 responses to the Office for National Statistics’ Crime Survey for England and Wales, and applied the results to a model to assess social impacts.

The model, which was approved by the Treasury earlier this year, allows researchers to value changes in wellbeing in monetary terms.

According to Which?, the research suggested that scam victims face a decline in life satisfaction, higher levels of anxiety and lower levels of happiness.

It comes after UK Finance’s latest fraud report, which covered the first half of 2021, showed a 71 per cent increase in authorised push payment (APP) fraud.

APP fraud occurs when a customer is tricked into authorising a payment to an account controls by criminals, who use tactics such as scam phone calls, text messages and emails, as well as fake websites and social media posts.

In the first half of 2021, a total of £753.9m was stolen through fraud, according to the report, up by 30 per cent compared to the same period last year.

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “This brings home the scale of the emotional and psychological harm that victims suffer when they are defrauded.

“The government must not ignore the huge impact an epidemic of fraud is having on our society.”

Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, also called for the government and the banking and finance industry to engage in coordinated action to tackle widespread fraud.

“Criminals continue to target customers with a variety of scams, often via online platforms, and it is only through coordinated action that we will be able to really make progress in addressing the problem,” she added.

Concha is set to present the findings of Which?’s research to MPs on the Draft Online Safety Bill Joint Committee on Monday.

Which?, alongside other consumer campaigners including Martin Lewis, is calling for more urgent action to tackle online scams, and wants the government to include scam adverts in the Online Safety Bill, which would place more responsibility to police content on online platforms.

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