The government’s latest Annual Fraud Indicator reveals the shocking amount that con artists are ripping us off by – £73bn – but is this just the tip of the iceberg?
There’s no reason to be ashamed of falling foul of a scam, as the criminals who bombard us with hooky letters and phone calls – not to mention turning up on the doorstep – are professionals. They know exactly what buttons to press to get you to hand over cash, cheques and bank details in return for nothing but grief.
But the total taken by the armies of fraudsters could be far higher than the £73bn that the Annual Fraud Indicator (AFI) suggests. After all, who really wants to admit that they’ve been conned? It’s likely that a large proportion of the billions stolen comes from cases where the level of loss was too significant for the victim to stay quiet.
I’m preparing a feature for Which? magazine and am keen to hear if this figure is in reality higher if scams go unreported.
Juicy return or milking you dry?
Typical scams may sound simple. They comprise of promises of compensation, unexpected lottery or prize draws and other spurious payouts or offers, which are usually aimed at more vulnerable people. Others target wealthier people, who are open to investments or overseas accounts that will promise juicy returns.
But the strategies they employ to entice people into paying up is often sophisticated. In some cases, the crooks ask for a small deposit to cover administration or delivery costs, in others they just want your bank details ‘as security’ or proof of identification – despite the fact that they contacted you. Invariably, the initial payment is just the first of several.
What they all have in common is an overriding sense that they’re too good to be true. It’s also fair to say that contact with scammers often appears out of the blue.
More vigilance could help victims
Tackling scams is a struggle for companies and authorities, who often don’t realise that there’s a problem until the scammers have moved on. But does that mean there’s nothing more that can be done?
I don’t think so. Postal delivery services could report instances of the huge amounts of scam junk mail being delivered to particular addresses. And the banks could be quicker to act if a customer’s spending habits rocket with erratic payments made to dubious sources.
But what measures do you think need to be taken to address scams?