/ Scams

What’s the emotional impact of an online scam?

The financial impact of online scams is easy to see, but we don’t talk enough about how else this type of fraud affects us. How do scams impact your behaviour online?

20/11/20: Almost one in 10 scammed by fake sellers

We really appreciate everyone who has taken the time to share their experiences with scams so far, as we know this isn’t always easy.

Since the last update, we’ve been continuing to investigate the scale of online scams and have today published the findings of our latest research into scam adverts on social media sites and search engines.

Alarmingly, we found that almost one in 10 people (9%) have fallen victim to a purchase scam – when someone is misled into paying for a product that never turns up or is not at all as described – via an advert on a social media site.

The same proportion of people (9%) had fallen victim to a scam advert via a search engine.

And our worrying survey findings were backed up by first-hand reports from people. When we asked for victims of social media purchase scams to get in touch with us, we heard from more than 200 people in just 48 hours. 

This includes people like Christine, who ordered a CBD oil product advertised on Facebook with false endorsements from Fern Britton and David Attenborough.

She was promised a sample for £2.50, but £170 was later taken from her bank account – more than her weekly pension. Although she did receive the sample she doesn’t think it is genuine CBD oil.

If you’ve fallen victim to a scam advert on social media or another online platform, we’d be keen to hear your experience in the comments below.

14/10/20: Government must take action to protect people

Today we’ve published research into consumer attitudes, knowledge and behaviour relating to scams on social media platforms.

We found that people are seriously underestimating their chances of falling victim to fraud on the sites and suffering the devastating emotional and financial consequences that this can result in.

Our research, comprised of an in-depth online community of Facebook users and a nationally representative online survey of 1,700 users of the site, found that users’ knowledge of what Facebook does to protect people from becoming a victim of a scam was low.

However, when details of Facebook’s actual systems and processes were explained, users were sceptical about their effectiveness and questioned whether they are sufficient.

While our research was conducted with a focus on Facebook due to its size and influence in the social media landscape, we believe that the findings and implications can be reasonably extended to apply to other similar social networking sites and online platforms.

We also heard from courageous scam victims who told Which? about how their experiences affected their confidence in themselves, their ability to trust others and even their mental and / or physical health.

Which? is now calling for online platforms, including social media sites, to be given greater responsibility to prevent scam content appearing on their platforms.

The government has a perfect opportunity to deliver this in the upcoming online harms bill and, if not, ministers must set out their proposals for further legislative action to effectively protect consumers.

05/10/20: Emotional impact

How many online scams are out there? How long’s a piece of string….

We’ve covered hundreds here on Which? Conversation in order to warn people of the dangers they pose by showing examples.

Thanks to the comments here in the community, we’re able to respond rapidly to new ones, and recognise the ones that are causing the most concern.

You can opt to receive these alerts directly via our scam alert service here:


Emotional harm

We’ve often spoken about what happens during a scam, and how new scams look online. This has included everything from ordering something online, only to receive a fake version, or even something entirely different: 

To ‘friends’ contacting you with a fake email, asking for cash, or even asking to take over your computer via remote access.

The financial impact of scams is evident, but we’ve spoken less about how scams might impact us in how we behave and how we feel when going about our business online.

How hard might it be to recover trust in a friend to whom you sent money in good faith, only to find that friend had been hacked? What about regaining your confidence online when you believe you are able to spot a scam, only to become the victim of one yourself?  

Tell us your story

We believe that the emotional impact of scams on consumers needs more attention, so we’d like to hear your experiences.  

If you were the victim of an online scam of any type, what happened, and how did you feel? Were you able to find a resolution?

What changed for you afterwards? Has there been an emotional impact on you personally, such as a loss of trust or confidence, or avoiding certain activities?  

If you haven’t been the victim of an online scam, does having knowledge of the many scams online have an impact on you?

Do you feel that certain online spaces are safer than others? Would a social media site, for example, be safer than an online marketplace?

If you see a scam on a particular site, do you know how to report it? If so, how often do you do so? 

If you were the victim of a scam, would you feel comfortable talking about it?
Loading ... Loading ...

Be kind

Please treat this discussion as a safe space. For some, these might be difficult stories to retell.

We want to understand this difficulty and make sure we all consider the impact this has directly from people who have been affected. 

This is not an opportunity to apportion blame or judge others for their choices, as this isn’t constructive to the discussion, nor does it invite others to be open with their experiences.

For this particular conversation we may remove comments to this effect. 

You may wish to comment under a pseudonym, or email us directly on conversation.comments@which.co.uk if you’d rather not discuss your experience in public.

How to comment under a pseudonym:

First, make sure you’re entirely logged out of Which? Conversation.

In the upper right corner, click on your username, and then click “Sign Out”. You can also use Private or Incognito browsing in your browser.

Navigate to the comment box at the bottom the page.

What you type in the comment box and in the name box will appear publicly on the site. The email address you provide will be visible only to moderators and site administrators, and will not be shared further without your consent.

If you would like to follow this conversation by email, or if you would be happy for a writer or researcher from Which? to follow up with you, we would recommend you using an email address on which you can be contacted.

If you would like, you can also get in touch with your story via email

Support is available

Which?’s has extensive Consumer Rights guidance on Scams, including how to identify and report scams, and how to get your money back if you have been a victim.

Additionally, Which? Legal can offer you tailored legal advice on a variety of consumer problems.

Being scammed can take a huge toll on you emotionally and mentally. It helps to speak to someone about what you’re going through.

Mind – confidential information and support

Mind has a confidential information and support line, Mind Infoline, available on 0300 123 3393 (lines open 9am – 6pm, Monday – Friday).

The charity also runs the supportive online community Elefriends where you can talk about and share your experiences of mental health.

Victim Support – 24/7 helpline

Victim Support has a free, 24/7 helpline where you can speak to someone confidentially. This can be a one-off call or they can refer you to local services for on-going support.

This service is free and run by Victim Support which is an independent charity.

You can contact Victim Support by:


Jboy says:
3 December 2020

If the world’s wealth was shared out evenly we could all rest and do what we really want to.
But no, we promote inequallity to the nth degree and carry on the discontent.

I am 81 years of age and managed not to loose ant money with a scam but I have been caught out with loosing £300 iPad on Facebook. The scammer purchased my iPad but I told him I would not dispatch until I had received payment and he agreed. 1 hour letter he e mailed me to inform he had paid the £300 through PayPal and a receipt was in my mail. The receipt looked perfect and showed no mistakes as to what I could see so I posted it the following morning. A week later no money had been transferred from PayPal into my account. I phoned PayPal and to my horror they confirmed that I had been scammed and no money had been paid. I told them I had got a receipt from PayPal but the receipt was a fake. So be warned. If your selling and getting paid via PayPal always check your PayPal account to make sure the money has been paid. DO NOT TAKE NOTICE OF RECEIPTS. Brian………

Brian, with respect, if you want to see if money has been paid to you via Paypal, do NOT rely solely on the buyer or any so-called receipt. Just log in to YOUR Paypal account and check if the payment is received there. Paypal do not issue “receipts” .
If it is, withdraw it immediately. I also do not give Paypal access to my bank account or debit card, only to a credit card.

Ron Crallan says:
3 December 2020

Being a cynical b*****d I don’t believe any emails I receive until I can relate them to someone or something I am aware of.

Re: today’s scam quiz:
A blue tick might suggest authenticity. The use of a decades-old name from science fiction does not. Never heard of ‘Soylent Green’?
The one about 75% off books also has a blue tick. But it also shows the facebook logo. So its a fake.

bernard says:
4 December 2020

I never make any purchases whether from cold phone calls or social media adverts. I treat all as a potential scam and do not respond to any of them.

Ollie says:
4 December 2020

I have been bombarded recently with virus protection expiry warnings fortunately I know who I use and when they expire. Just beware and check before you click!

I thought all banks were now required to have proper identity of bank account holders including confirmed picutre ID. Surely if they have that it should be easy to track down fraudsters and get back any money. If they do not have that then they should be held liable for any losses. And they should not deal with any banks aboard do not have a similar standard.

I’m sure none of my banks have recent photoid for me. But when opening new accounts online, it is quite common for banks to request images of a driving licence or passport and images of items such as utility bills to prove the current address of the account holder. But none of those checks would stop fraudsters paying associates to set up accounts, which could then be handed over to the fraudsters for their use.

Karina Cliff says:
25 February 2022

It happened to my daughter; she sent money via a Bank Transfer and had to provide the sellers name, address and bank details before her bank would agree to the transfer and even so, the seller took the money but did not send the item.
By the way – reviews of delivery of product and product itself were very positive and nothing to suggest that it was a scam.
It turned out that this particular scam artist had ripped off individuals to the tune of several hundred pounds. My daughter was a little more cautious and sent only £50 which was the minimum asked for. The bank was not interested because, according to them, the details provided had checked out and there was nothing to suggest that the whole operation was fraudulent.
This ‘seller’ lives in Greece and who has the time and money to bring a case against someone who may have used a fake name and address and set up a fake bank account in a foreign country?
It is easy to fall for a well planned and executed scam.

Karina: the BIG warning flag that this was likely to be a scam was that they required payment by direct bank transfer.
There are repeated warnings not to pay for things by direct bank transfer. A scam does not need to be sophisticated if people ignore that basic safety step.