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.
Victims of fraud don't just lose money. They can lose trust and confidence. How can people avoid scams while using social media? We're calling on the government to give social media companies more responsibility for protecting their users from fraud. pic.twitter.com/JKtvLb46wb— Which? (@WhichUK) October 14, 2020
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:
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:
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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:
- Calling them for free on 0808 16 89 111
- Requesting online support
- Contacting your local Victim Support team