/ 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?

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?
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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:

 

Comments
Peter says:
10 October 2020

Received phone calls at home purporting to be from my bank wanting to check my DD details. Had recently set up a subscription. Instinctively l felt uncomfortable but played along saying my wife deals with our finances but should be home very soon & asked for the caller’s details so l could phone back. They declined. I dialled 1471 to find the caller was overseas & 1477 only works in the UK. I was’nt sure if my Land line was safe. They later tried again mid week & l stalled again. I went straight to my bank to find it’s only open during Lockdown 2 days a week. It would be 5 full days before re-opening! ‘Solved’ matters ultimately via Royal Mail’s Special Delivery service contacting the Bank. A faff & not an instant response.

melanie says:
14 October 2020

Hi Peter, scroll to bottom of page , find customer service, request contact us and a chat box will come up. You can get your money back, and also report the sellers on their and on your order page.

Michael,B,Budinger says:
11 October 2020

I have been on the amazon site twice where by I was scammed. march 2020. purchased some masks, from wowcher, which I have never received. Also my receipt which I starred as important, suddenly disappeared from my emails. I did put comments on Trust Pilot about this.
August 2020, on amazon again I purchased face masks, 5 days delivery when I purchased, but when the receipt through, it gave a delivery date of 10 october 2020. with this was also a tracker, which said dispatched , 30 october this and the receipt both disappeared.
I do have an email address for amazon, but funny enough its not recognised.
It seems to me any medical sites on amazon are all scammers, I think amazon should do more to protect users from these.
It would help if we were able to contact amazon, by email, but it seems they are not the only ones using one off emails.
Only small amounts of money, about £30 in all.

Colin Brady says:
14 October 2020

Michael, Amazon do not have an email address that you can send to (and have not used an email form online for more than a year). They DO have a Customer Service page which is easty to use. They have live-chat or they can phone you back at their cost.
It sounds as if you were cheated by third-party sellers. “Amazon WILL protect customers from such sellers under their A-Z guarantee”.
Amazon’s customer service page has a link on their site (top of every page) which will take you to http://www.amazon.co.uk/contact-us
I am always more careful when ordering from third-party sellers, than from Amazon or fulfiiled by amazon, but I have never had a problem getting refunds – if the 3rd party does not reply, Amazon reimburse me.

Ovidiu says:
14 October 2020

You should get on your Amazon account and click on the “call me” – you will get a call immediately, from an Irish number and they will resolve your claim on spot!

Disappearing emails would worry me. If they are on your computer then someone might have got access to your computer (malware?), if they are on a online server which you view from your computer, then the email account may have been compromised. If they are messages in the Amazon user interface – I would think only you and Amazon themselves should have the ability to remove them.

Behind the scenes we’ve had a number of people get in touch by email to share their stories, so just to say to those who have, and who have shared here so far – thank you. We hear you, and thank you for speaking up on the impact these experiences have had (and indeed continue to have).

Dave Harris says:
14 October 2020

I was nearly scammed by an official looking letter from HMRC, saying I was behind with my repayments. Having phoned HMRC to query the amount the person did not sound Kosher, I then phoned the Helpline and the letter was genuine but the Telephone number was a scam. Beware of this Scam it could of cost me thousands of pounds

Grant says:
14 October 2020

I get scam e mails texts etc thanks to Which I was aware what to look for and how to report them

Phil says:
14 October 2020

I’ve recently had many scam phone calls & from UK landlines – I don’t understand how these people can have a registered landline & break the law without, it seems, any chance of them being caught!
If I want to get a landline they need proof of who I am
It really seems like no ones cares, my daughter was scammed out of £1500 as a deposit for a flat, her bank was HSBC & the scammer was HSBC too and yet they couldn’t have cared less that a customer of theirs was running a scam from their bank account
Until attitudes change & people become held accountable nothing will change – it’s just too easy to get away with it

Phil, they are probably not from a registered UK landline but are using software to make it seem as if they are, and a UK-format number appears on your caller-display.

There has been some suspicious activity with my FaceBook. I cannot access my FAceBook at all now. I received an email in my junk folder saying there had been an attempt to access it. This was sent to an email account not associated with the email on Facebook!! Via my partners page I can see some of my information has been deleted. Facebook ( so called helpful email address to contact them on) want £50 to rectify the problem which will apparently be done in 24hours – not a chance! I so not want my account any more because of this. I am concerned I maybe scammed. I just want all my details deleted!!! Can anyone offer any suggestions?

Sharon White says:
14 October 2020

Always report any numbers to “Action Fraud” I had £800 scammed out of my Bank Account and they caught the “nasty little gi via interpol in Poland!

David Jack says:
14 October 2020

I feel this is quite dodgy regarding my bank advertising competitor banks for my business account. I have received several letters and emails telling me my business acount qualifies for an incentive payment of £1500 to transfer to another bank. I have wasted several hours with enquiries only to find my business account doesn’t in fact qualify for the incentive. All in all it would take me around 2 days to switch accounts completely after informing all customers and suppliers.
It’s just not on in my opinion.

Charles Toop says:
14 October 2020

We receive almost weekly scam telephone calls to our home number from what appears from their accent to be people in India. They use what appear to be UK telephone phone numbers but in fact are not and so cannot be traced or blocked. They are either ‘from Microsoft’ and offer to ‘fix’ my ‘broken’ computer or are from an ISP looking for money or they will terminate my ‘overdue’ account. Occasionally they are from the UK and call to ‘renew’ my insurance on our cooker, not that we have cooker insurance or they want to start a conversation about ‘saving energy’. The latter calls usually start ‘ hello this is xxxx. Am I speaking to the householder’. Answer – none of your business. Daily I receive scam emails asking me to click on a link. So far, it’s been easy to spot them – anything without your account number, full name, badly worded or mis-spelt should immediately be flagged as suspicious. If a telephone call and you’re unsure, ask for key information such as the last 3 digits of an account number. Don’t call back without checking online that the telephone number you are given is kosher.
To be honest, nowadays any call or email you receive from someone you don’t know or that you are not expecting should be treated as guilty until proven innocent.

I always look up the phone number on the internet now. If it is looked up quite a few times block it!

John says:
14 October 2020

I am very sorry to say that a number of so-called respectable companies come up on ones ‘Caller Display’ as being from within the UK but are in fact in India. Around 3 years ago I received a ‘please don’t leave us’ type call from Three 3 the moble service provider, and tracked the number as being from Hammersmith but on using social media, 192.com, Google, and the fact that the caller had an unusual name, I managed to trace the name to an address closer to Mambai airport than to Heathrow airport? I mentioned this in a complaint regarding another matter but as per usual received no reply. I do not wish to upset the liberal lefty Guardian Readers Brigade but any unsolicited call with an accent as being from the Indian sub-continent has switched me to the Put Down The Phone Mode since 1996.

“To be honest, nowadays any call or email you receive from someone you don’t know or that you are not expecting should be treated as guilty until proven innocent.” Absolutely Charles. It’s sad but that’s how I feel now about any unsolicited contact.

Not a scam as such but I had my identity stolen, my mail was redirected, the criminals got a copy of my driver’s licence fraudualently. Accounts were opened in my name and a loan was taken out. I lost no personal money, I was very lucky in that respect. But it was a full -time job trying to clear up the mess, contacting all the firms who had made searches to find hidden loans and this took months. I now feel vulnerable and suspicious of anything out of the ordinary, my anxiety levels are much higher. I’ve always been very cautious and have no social media accounts, but the episode has made it very clear to me that it is impossible to defend yourself in an absoluete way, because we are being constantly asked for all sorts of information and this stuff is just out there. The crooks are just waiting until they have just enough to begin their work and believe me most security is so light that they don’t need so much information.

Craig Robert Vince says:
14 October 2020

I bought 4 items from China, a ladder, a sharpener, a saw and something else, i haven’t received any of the items and they keep telling me to be patient, i,ve discussed it with paypal and been reimbursed for the cheapest item, still awaiting the others, all items bought from facebook websites that i now believe are possibly scam.

Facebook needs to do more

Kathleen says:
14 October 2020

To Craig I ordered a pair of sandals through Facebook they also turned out to be from China. They took 10 weeks to come and were definitely not worth wha I paid for them. Perhaps your items may still turn up

I bought two items from Facebook and on one they said the item was held at customs. Luckily PayPal agreed to reimburse me for that. The other item I ordered was a battery operated spray to use on car etc you didn’t need a hose you use bucket of water and this spray had tube to put into the bucket etc. All I got was a spray you stick into hose to use. Sending it back was going to cost more than I paid in first place. PayPal once again reimbursed me. But now I warn everyone not to buy anything from Facebook because through experience they are scams.

We were getting so many scam calls on our land-line I decided to set it so that it doesn’t ring at our end and goes straight to the answerphone, I then recorded a message saying we do not answer calls but we do monitor the answerphone, so if they leave a message identifying who they are and their telephone number we will call them back. This covers you in case someone genuine is trying to contact you. We have never had any messages left by the scammers as you would expect. Find this works far better than call blocking etc.

Another way to stop these calls is when you answer the phone don’t say anything at all. If there’s no voice it doesn’t connect and you hear a click then ringtone. This methodology works well for us. Hope this helps.

Romie Gumayagay says:
14 October 2020

How can I set it up on landlines, please let me know thank you.

Eileen says:
14 October 2020

E -mails received from TV licence and DVLA saying I owe money and send my bank details. I also had one to say that my lgrant was progressing ( I have not applied for one) and to send bank details Although I know these are scams others may not. My point is Social media and government know this but do not do enough to protect vulnerable people. Social media do not care about these scams they ‘own the world’. Their moral obligation is to do more to protect us they have the technology but have they the inclination. Fed up with powerful disinterested organisations allowing people to be fleeced daily!

John says:
14 October 2020

I may be lucky but I get very few scam e mail’s to date and very few phone calls . The phone calls are two kinds The first is an computer generated voice .These are always scams , Best to always just put the phone down at this point because you do not know if the links given go , perhaps to a premium rate number or worse . The second is the accident scam companies .I just put the phone down on them as well .I have noticed they come in groups,I may not get one for weeks or longer then I get two or three in quick succession.I always go into my BT account and block the number if it has been left although they can just use another . I pass on any suspicious looking emails to ” report@ phishing.gov.uk ” . You do have to have to be allert at all times , got one from John Lewis ,I had bought something but if I wanted to cancel I had to go into my Pay Pall account. Got as far as putting in my email before I realised it was a scam . Lastly never leave myself logged on to any account and I do not leave my card details . It’s a pain to enter them every time but far safer. NEVER give out bank details to a cold caller and never call to check such a call on the same phone without ringing someone you do know to clear the line .Or use another phone . The line can still be open until you do this.

Peter says:
14 October 2020

Some years ago I purchased a steam cleaner through what looked like a reputable firm, they told me they had problems with the credit card machine but I could do a transfer to their current account for £50. Never received the Steamer and when I reported it to Barclays, their bank, no joy there. And no joy form Police Action Fraud, absolutely useless, why do we pay them?

I thought you needed utility bills and ID to open current accounts, obviously not, the banks are turning a blind eye to fraud, why am I not surprised.

I am sorry, but “Our card machine is not working, please transfer the money to our bank account” is one of the most obvious scams around. Reputable firms will not do this. Remember also, as soon as you do this you have given up any card protection that you might have. On Amazon and several other sites you will also lose any guarantee or protection that they might usually give. Many have it specifically stated on their site to only complete payment via the online shopping basket.

Online advertising platforms need to be proactive in vetting ads before publishing. Waiting for complaints and reports from users after 100’s if not 1,000’s of people have been scammed is simply not good enough. As things stand ads for goods that claim to do the impossible (e.g. Indoor TV aerials that magically allow you to access cable or satellite subscription services for free), and ads with fake celebrity endorsements for “get rich quick schemes could be stopped in their tracks. Perhaps Facebook and others should be made responsible for reimbursing losses suffered due to fraudulent ads on their platforms.

Rod Mayall says:
14 October 2020

I had $1000 charged to Amazon.com in the USA. I did not have an Amazon.com account, only an Amazon.co.uk account. However, when getting any sort of Amazon account, you automatically have accounts on every Amazon area! I then received notification of daily password changes from an Indian address and threats from debt collectors in the USA, Mexico and India. When I contacted Amazon.co.uk, they stated that as it was an Amazon.com problem, they could not help. Amazon.com wanted me to phone them at high international rates.
My bank stopped all payments to Amazon and replaced my bank card.
Despite many emails to both Amazon sites, they insisted that it must be my fault and that I had given my password to someone and was thus responsible for the debts.
Amazon then froze my account. The only way to contact Amazon was by logging on, which was now impossible!
I spoke to CAB and my bank and told Amazon.co.uk, by post, that I was taking legal action against them, which they ignored.
More threats from overseas debt collectors arrived, by both post and email.
I sent a letter on intent to proceed to Amazon.co.uk.
After nearly three months I received a phone call from an Amzon.co.uk representative, who was most helpful, and after three calls and explainations, cleared my account for use and also cleared the debt!
However, although I can use Amazon.co.uk, I am still getting chasing emails and treats from Amazon.com. I have given up on them.

Penny says:
14 October 2020

I get numerous scam calls, nearly always from a computer generated voice, either Asian or American. They threaten to cut off my telephone/internet/Tv connection unless I follow the link etc. Always put the phone down. They come from numbers which I then try to block but, somehow, the same scammers manage to get through from other landline numbers. They also tend to come in ‘waves’ as another correspondent has noted. Sometimes all I get on answering is the dialling tone. You could say don’t answer if it is an unknown number but, in my defence, some calls are genuine. (I know, let it go answerphone!).

As they are obviously large and persistent groups behind these activities, their gains, at the presumed expense of the vulnerable, is sickening at the very least.

The biggest problem we face is constant scam phone calls. We have blocked UK phone numbers but can do nothing about the overseas ones. I would rather miss a genuine call than fall for a scam. We need more security from companies we entrust with our personal details. I am very loath to sign up to new things as, despite their assurances about privacy and not sending our details on, I often start getting spam emails after i have signed up. It is shameful.

Geoffrey Roberts says:
14 October 2020

My wife received a traffic fine, saying £25 to be paid to the link in the email or it would go up to £100. After studying this (it looked genuine at first glance) there was no car registration detail, no photograph and the location of the offence was “UK”. needless to say it has not been paid.