/ 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:


Heather Davison says:
14 October 2020

I lost £18k to a scam. I thought I was buying a car from a bona fide garage who had been in business for 16 years. Their site had been cloned and a bank account duplicated in 5heir name. I did all the checks and still got duped. It has been 2 years now and still having an impact. The bank indicated it was my fault as there are no checks on fraudulent bank accounts or the names of payees.

I was able to have my case looked at as part of a bigger fraud investigation and was used as a witness and gave evidence to that effect. The ringleaders of the gang involved have stolen over £10m and have been found guilty and sentenced.

But I haven’t been able to recover my money and my case against the bank is with FSO….its been 15 months since I logged my claim. The system.allowrd the fraud to take place due legal loopholes.

T.Hitchcock says:
14 October 2020

I have revealed scams which only could have occurred with inside knowledge from the Banks & the Inland Revenue. I have approached both the Fraud Dept. & Newspapers with no response from them.
The Inland Revenue fraud officer was a Nigerian who was completely evasive. It appears that Authority does not want to reveal what is going on as it will show great gaps in the system. However, it is now being revealed by many ordinary citizens who are innocently being involved in the CVirus Government ‘hand-out schemes’ are finding that other people have claimed under their official details. My observations lead me to believe that much of the fraud is not done by hacking or by ‘conners’ but by inside informers.

Peter W Lane says:
14 October 2020

What’s the relevance of saying the officer was Nigerian? You didn’t mention his eye colour or whether he was left-handed. This kind of detail just weakens the point you want to make.

sue eldridge says:
14 October 2020


Sandra Reddick says:
14 October 2020

That is such a great worry for any citizen. People are being coerced, no longer encouraged, to bank online to save the big banks money in staff costs. However, the absolute maximum security to protect customers finances is not being employed. Not dissimilar to Insurance companies when a claim is lodged…. the banks must go to the enth degree to avoid culpability and therefore put the blame on the customer. This has to stop as they ARE culpable… they are supposed to protect your finances…. they make use of your money with almost 0% interest. Change is demanded especially if insider fraud is happening a lot… unbelievable.

john says:
15 October 2020

The relevance is Nigeria is a well known known start point for financial scams and has been for years .

Valerie says:
14 October 2020

I agree that it is telephone scams that drive me up the wall. Our family business is an I.S P. so it surprises me whan I get a phone call from “your I.S.P” saying my account is about to be suspended. The last time I asled the caller who my I.S P. is and he waffled. I informed him that I was surprised as I had not told myself that I was cutting of m accpount and to my surprise he rang off.
My son has a favourite response to scam calls – he responds with “this is Inspector “xxx” of “xxx” police station” – he says it is amazing how quickly they ring off.
He also tells me never to say “Yes” as it could be recorded and use to make a fraudulant online sign up for something, so I am getting good at using other words to replace Yes!
What bugs me is that there are known bogus call centres in this country as well as in India (according to a BBC program watched a few eeeks ago). If they know where they are, why cannot they be closed down?

In 2014, I was identity frauded; £3500 was stolen from my bank account. To this day, I have no idea how the fraudster got my debit card details – the card never left my person and I never gave any details to anyone. I worked it for 40 years in IT prior to retiring. It went like this – I noticed on my online statement that a number of payments had been taken by”Sunny.co.uk” – a payday lender. I immediately contacted the bank (Halifax), and Sunny.co.uk. Someone had taken out a loan in my name with Sunny.co.uk and was repaying it from my bank account. They even caused my account to go £800 overdrawn but the Halifax did not contact me. Sunny.co.uk were helpful, the Halifax were not; someone from their fraud department (a very rude Irishman) accused me of being a part of the fraud! I reported the matter to the police, Action Fraud and the Police Commissioner, but they all did nothing. Yet only the police have the powers to fully investigate; I asked Sunny.co.uk to tell me where the loan payment had gone to, but they would not tell me. The bank refused to refund the money, although the FCA web site says they must do so immediately. Only when I went to the Ombudsman did I get my money back. I doubt that anyone seriously investigated; the Police Commissioner even said that I should have investigated! But I was powerless to demand information from anyone. The whole thing made a mockery of justice, and faith in the police and Action Fraud.

Tricia Edwards says:
14 October 2020

Phishing emails that appeared to be coming from TV licencing stating that when trying to take from my account a payment ‘something went wrong’ and so was asked to click on the link and then……?
Have no idea what would have happened as I smelt a rat and sent the email to the Gov’s cyber mail website. Happened twice to me.

David says:
14 October 2020

I also received this scam and contacted TV licensing. They confirmed that it was a scam. If you pay for your licence by direct debit check your bank statement to see if your payment has been taken.
I have made the decision to NEVER click on links however safe I think the request is!

Richard Walker says:
14 October 2020

Always check the details – often the licence number itself will be wrong on these things. I’ve had several over the years. Plus, “oops, something went wrong” just doesn’t seem the right tone – actual TV licensing folk are never that upbeat!

Sheila A says:
14 October 2020

Ur right about the TV Licence scams….bet I’ve had a dozen over the months. Anything that appears to be a scam goes in a ‘special’ folder which I shall print and pass to the Police at some stage…..
Most scams give themselves away with bad spelling and errors and the fact you don’t know them.
Just remember if it looks like and smells like a skunk…..it’s very likely to be a SKUNK..avoid!

Neville Aithwaite says:
14 October 2020

I bought a rather cheap bike from China and had to wait about two months for delivery, I noted it was past the delivery date. I contacted the company who advised the product had been sent. I visited the local postal depot Who informed me the right package number had been delivered and on the date stated. I was also told the post office had been inundated with delivery queries and they had noted the Chinese scammers were sending small items to homes instead of larger items as in my case. When asking my wife she explained there was a small gold looking ring had been delivered which had not been ordered and it was in a drawer. When I looked the package postal number was the one they said had been delivered. Cut the long story short after along drawn out to and fro with PayPal I dropped the dispute.
This has happened now twice and I will not buy items from Facebook any more.

I would NEVER buy something off Facebook. It is the equivalent of seeing an item or service advertised on a postcard in your local newsagent’s window, phoning them up and giving them your credit card details, or sending money to their bank account.

Wendy Carter says:
14 October 2020

That’s an excellent analogy!

j.H. says:
14 October 2020

I to have been recently scammed and it does make you feel nothing is trustworthy anymore. My scam I found checking my Bank account to find a Direct Debit had been set up and money taken, I did not believe such a thing was possible, luckily my Bank is available for me to visit and was quickly sorted and it was cancelled and the Bank refunded me . However during the investigation it turned out I had recently taken out Insurance for my House and contents with another Bank but I had paid the entire years premium so would not have needed a monthly direct debit, so you do wonder how this can possibly happen. I have been fortunate the way I was dealt with but that was one almighty upset for me. So all I say to all your readers TAKE CARE BEWARE.

R Pressman says:
14 October 2020

4th May 20th 2020 July 2020 & before that Oct 2017 I was scammed, and had to buy a new computer. The background noise sounded like people in a room talking. and many more.
I reported them to Barkinside Police Station and given a reference No. Then next time
to Action Fraud and Scotland yard.
The person told that I owed them over £300 and asked my name, etc. It took 4 months before the
police came over in reply to many fake calls. In the end he said do NOT put your credit card details
on my computer keyboard. Since then every few months I’d get a call from an unknown Tel number, as I put the tel down and do 1471. Many questions are asked, and sound original. The last one was 18th Sept when I was called and told I OWE AMAZONE PRIME £79.99. I replied I don’t buy from them and put the tel down. I did 1471 and number does not exist. I had to buy a new computer and have it wiped. The people are very good at asking questions, and they sound very real,
as they have all the answers written down and the questions and probably read them off. ALSWAYS DO 1471 AND WRITE IT ON PAPER AND THE TIME. MOST OF THE TIME THEY DON’T EXIST.

Jenni says:
14 October 2020

The worst scams are involving “celebraties”. My sister got caught by seeing Paul Schofield, He was recommending a money investment scheme through foreign money dealing. Beware all fake!! Companies in Cyprus and loads of advisors available online. All rubbish!!

Because it was this guy on “This Morning” t.v. My sister kept saying “it’s ok be cause he would not be involved if it was not real”. The scammers got more monies until we put stop on her bank cards.
SO UPSETTING and caused awful on going problems still. ❤

Bill Ferry says:
14 October 2020

I got caught the same way, do not trade with a firm called INFINI. I invested £5250 with them. The account
reached £6100 I was a bit wary as they were putting pressure on me to invest more. I told them I wanted to close the account as I needed the money. I was then informed that I had instructed them to trade my A/C on their robotic system. I had no idea what they were talking about but I was told that there was no money in my A/C. Lesson Due Diligence before you invest any money!! (Half my Life Savings and I’m an OAP gone)

Clive says:
14 October 2020

Just recently my granddaughter sold her phone for £350. Unfortunately she gave her phone number to the person who was buying it. She had a message off PayPal (cloned PayPal) saying a payment had been made & will be with her within a few days. She sent the phone thinking the email was genuine. She never had the money so she contacted PayPal. PayPal told her that she had been scammed. She should never have gave her phone number & neither sent the phone until she could see the money in her account. She already suffers with mental health issues but this made it worse.

cynthia dennis says:
14 October 2020

These scams has been going on for sooooooooooooooo long I feel people who fall to them are exceeding foolish or greedy. they (the scammers) have nothing NEW they use the same old – same old – since how long, why can’t people not just wake up???

Wendy Carter says:
14 October 2020


Lesley Cotton says:
14 October 2020

There are a vast quantity of phone & email scams, mainly involving the following companies (fake) HMRC, Amazon Prime, Virgin Media, BT, Sky, Vodaphone, NHS Track & Trace, just to mention a few, they use what look like genuine phone numbers, they are also fake. I spoke to a person via a recorded message from Amazon Prime by pressing no.1, it did not matter how many times I told him, he was a scammer, (& I was incredibly rude to him) he just keep reading his script. I had 9 calls from them in 2 days, exactly the same message but 9 different phone numbers. They drive me nuts

Sara says:
14 October 2020

Yes I had call from someone claiming to be from Amazon Prime – saying that money had been withdrawn from my account. The only way I could do anything about this was to download soft wear which would give them access to my computer….this is in brief how the call went. I hung up when I expected it was a scam…and checked with the fraud section of my bank who were very helpful. These calls are very intrusive and unnerving…

Lesley – NEVER press any key they ask, just hang up. By pressing “1” you confirmed that your number is real and active. Also with some scams, when you press a number to speak to them, you incur very large costs as they connect you to a premium rate line.

John says:
15 October 2020

Agreed,I used to string them along, especially the ” your internet is at risk etc etc ” I no longer do this for the very reason you have outlined ,you just do not know where the call ends up .Best to just hang up ,I then go into my BT account and block the number if one has been identified . I also have forwarded scam emails to report @ phishing.co.uk ,my scam Traffic is zero at the moment.

Charles Trollope says:
14 October 2020

I received a new, to me, scam two days ago. It purported to come from the Driving licence people asking me for all my details including finance. I binned it.


William Napier says:
14 October 2020

I’ve always suspected that Social Sites are a bit lackadaisical with their checks, and it has been proved countless times. I would advise people never to buy anything that is advertised on a Social Site, and never buy anything where the price is given in currency that isn’t United Kingdom pounds.

D.Thompson says:
14 October 2020

I get 5 or 6 attempted scams weekly. Usually it’s
1. Your internet account is about to be closed
2. You are about to be sued by HMRC.for unpaid tax
3. You have a tax rebate which we will send after you release personal information
4. You account(s) have been hacked and you need to change your password / security etc
5. One I have not had for some time is a “new organisation” offering membership to get discounts on petrol / servicing etc and “if you listen to our spiel we will send you a £50 voucher – even if you don’t sign up”. When you don’t sign up they ask for your card details for the £1 postage needed to send your voucher. Needless to say when you refuse they hang up.
6. There have been complaints from people unable to send you e mails and we need to take control of your computer to resolve the problem. (alleged to be from BT open reach)

So far I have avoided them all – but did have someone using my credit card details several hundred miles away. This was refunded by my card holder after I was able to prove I had not been away and had not purchased the goods alleged to be my purchases.

Anne says:
14 October 2020

On the grounds that while telephone scammers are talking to me, they are not scamming anyone else, I try to keep them on the line as long as possible. (But I have now taken on board not to say, “Yes”. Thank you, Valerie.) A good line is to say that you are just going to consult your husband/wife/partner, and just walk away leaving the phone unattended. Not sure how long they hang on – they’re gone by the time I get back.

Tom Hogan says:
14 October 2020

Scams is still not receiving the government attention it deserves. Police are grossly under resourced and lack the expertise needed to properly investigate and prosecute cases. The British public are all at risk but are often unaware. The criminals know they are very unlikely to be detected: victims don’t always realise they have been ripped off and have little faith, correctly, that their complaint will be investigated. Elderly people are especially vulnerable. All those involved in internet commerce can and should do more: social media, banks, Amazon, Ebay etc. This problem will growth to crisis levels until a national strategy is implemented.

Chris says:
14 October 2020

They can land a man on the Moon and create a viral killer pandemic……but we are plagued by ( mainly Indian sounding) criminals who can have us routinely running downstairs in our `70`s, to answer an expected call – just to try and rob us by any means. The UK authorities seem not to bother, or are helpless. but I don`t believe this. Why is there inaction on something that is the blight of our lives?

Kenneth Baker says:
14 October 2020

If you buy anything from China online you are taking a chance. Some companies in China are very honest and some are disshonest but if you get scammed their is nothing you can do about it. Your only hope is Paypal but my experience is that’s difficult also.