/ 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:


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.

By HSBC bank account was attacked by someone using a cheque with my signature. The only way the fraudster could have got details was by downloading information from companies House but noone, the police, the bank or companies House would talk… Totally blinded repeatedly.

Fortunately it was stopped but the attitude of all the authorities made me think I was in a third world country., not the UK.

Telephone number spoofing could be stopped tomorrow but again noone is interested.

Government advice is also poor… Why say things like take 5 to make sure the person on the telephone is genuine before divulging confidential info? The advice should be do nothing over the phone or at the door or online unless you have initiated the contact.

The government is protecting the telesales businesses.

You write that your HSBC Bank Account was “attacked” by using a cheque with your signature?
1. Was the cheque a blank signed cheque?
2. If the answer to 1. above is “Yes”, how was your HSBC Bank Account “attacked” when, apparently, a cheque, duly signed and, if a personal cheque, bearing a Cheque Guarantee Card number on the reverse of the cheque, for no higher value than the maximum value guaranteed by the Cheque Guarantee Card, was presented to the Branch of HSBC Bank at which your Bank Account is/was held?

re Telephone number spoofing could be stopped tomorrow but again noone is interested.

The telecoms companies already block internationally-originated calls where the CLI (caller’s number) is a UK number.

However it is perfectly legitimate to display a different CLI as long as the CLI belongs to you.

For example, a company might have branches all over the UK, but they want any inbound calls to go to a call centre. So even though the Manchester store calls you, it is allowed to display a Newcastle number to direct you to their call centre if you call back – as long as they own that number.

Here are some giveaway tips for CLIs:

Displaying a 01, 02, 03 number is ok, plus a free 080x number. Companies are not allowed to display numbers such as 0870, or 09 numbers.

Spammers often use numbers like 0161 0xx xxxx but of course there’s no local number in Manchester starting with a zero, so that’s a clue the number is false.

Another trick is using a number longer or shorter than a real one. Almost all UK numbers are 11 digits, though there are a handful of exchanges using 10 digits. Anything longer is fake.

If you do get a call with a fake CLI, report it to your phone company as they are obliged by OFCOM to prevent this.

Cheque guarantee cards are no longer used/required, and have not been for many years.

William says:
14 October 2020

I saw an advert for a pair of shoes on Facebook,foolishly thinking all the adverts on Facebook were genuine,turned out to be a scam,Facebook,my Bank and PayPal said they couldn’t do anything about it.Cost me £62 but learned a lesson will not now deal with PayPal,Facebook and lost faith with my bank.Another reason why I like to pay with cash,I can actually see what I am getting for my money.It certainly won’t happen to me again

William. I fell for the same con trick [plenty detailed in Trustpilot] Your bank should be able to refund you via Chargeback. They can do this via their KYC protocol. Any kak and FSO is the next step. btw Facebook are still at it and are equally criminal. Online ads today for neovearn shoes…same old con. The reason I say Fbook are criminal is that they remove bonefide warnings from folk trying to protect innocent/curious potential customers. And allow obviously concocted posts. Really quite shocking that no-one can get through to Fbook. You would have thought that the police or even Which? would have some clout. But no

NEVER buy off Facebook. You have virtually no consumer protection.

Always remember that the “C” in Facebook should be pronounced the same as the “C” in conman.

Nice one Derek. Perhaps we should just call it Fakebook in future, then the message might get around.

Leo Lyons says:
14 October 2020

Traders Chain was the company the fooled me into investing some money in Forex trading. I made a profit but they never pay out.

Why did you invest? Was it for profit? Do you not think they want to make a profit aswell? Do not invest unless you can afford to lose it all

Wouldnt it be simpler, at least for the time being, to shun Facebook? Or is it so indispensable people cannot do that? Facebook is constantly in the news for all the wrong reasons & it beggars belief it is still used.

What happens AFTER I posted this comment? “CONTINUE WITH FACEBOOK” !!!!! If Which are really serious about this issue WHY do they continue to associate themselves with this organisation?!!!

Claire says:
14 October 2020

I never joined. Started and the minute I saw they took ownership of my content, phots etc…I backed out and didn’t join. Never missed it. I’ve seen other people.s and cant understand why people want so much garbage coming into them. That applies to both the scams, ads but also photos of people’s meals! Do I need that? No. Read a book!

Penny Quilter says:
14 October 2020

Fortunately so far we have not been the victims of this sort of crime. I would like to say thank you to organisations like Which? and Ethical Consumer as they have increasingly become go to places for advice about what and who to trust. I have after a rather drawn out process cancelled my Amazon account because of their inability or unwillingness to properly monitor reviews and users of the platform. Communities like this are great and I hope those of you that have been tricked and exploited find some consolation in knowing you are not alone and you are not stupid and have not done anything wrong.

Mostly agree with that. But my gripe is that there is no competent government body looking out for consumers welfare in areas where there is big and obvious corruption which can be tackled. On top of that i have found Which? a bit of a toothless outfit. Plenty to say about stuff but not really hardnosed enough to take the muscular action you need to get things done. Facebook has become a semi-criminal organisation which through it’s size has got out of control with all kinds of things going on. When did Which? have a face to face ?

Marie Claire MRS says:
14 October 2020

I used Quotatis to find a roofer in London, I had a con man redoing the roof of my son’s flat, over 3 years later, the water came pouring in the flat and the roofer has disappeared and the whole roof needs to be redone. Those sites are an open platform for crooks. They should be shut down if they cannot check if traders are genuine.

nick says:
14 October 2020

You have to be on your guard whenever you are on the internet. I thought I was savvy but I was nearly sucked in by a scammer. It was only when he started asking for bank details the penny dropped I was being scammed. I receive dubious emails on an almost daily basis.

Ted Vary says:
14 October 2020

On-Line fraud can have a devastating effect on the lives of vulnerable people. It is an increasing problem for all who avail themselves of what has now become an essential tool of life. It is a prevalent offence which can take place even in our essential dealings with our government, where many a fraudster lurks in the guise of government agencies. Essentially it is a serious crime and governments have a primary duty to protect their citizens from crime. To fail to act quickly and comprehensively to protect its citizens from such widespread crime is a disgraceful dereliction of that duty.

14 October 2020

I saw an ad. in Facebook, last Dec. for double sided sticky tape, which for a limited time you could have a small sample free, only pay for postage. The postage was $3, which led me to believe it was coming from the USA. Weeks passed and no tape, even though they had sent delivery dates. Then out of the blue, I got a message from my credit card co. asking me to contact them re. a charge that had appeared on my account for £49.56 which included a foreign exchange charge, which was from a company I had no knowledge of, for a subscription for a health and fitness plan. After contacting my c/card co., who must have been aware of the source of the charge, being fraudulent, I was given a credit for the £49.56 and assured that any further charge from this source, would not be allowed. Imagine my surprise, when a charge of £49.56 again inc. a foreign exchange fee, appeared from a different source, but again for a subscription to a health plan. My c/card co. has now cancelled my c/card and issued new card, obviously with different card nos. I guess that the original source of the first attempt, either tried gain with a different name, or sold my c/card no. to another fraudster. Two things I WILL NOT DO AGAIN, give my c/card details to an unknown source, or believe that anything of even small value, is FREE.


This is simply an extension of the “dead sea mud packs” scam of a few years ago. Many people replied to pop-up adverts for a free sample of a beauty treatment – they only had to send a small amount to cover postage. In the small print they agreed to a monthly subscription. There ads were not even on Amazon or Boots or Facebook but appeared as unsolicited pop-ups and STILL people responded to them.
Never but from Facebook ads, NEVER buy from pop-ups.

If you read the small print on some of these ‘free samples’, the only way to get out of a monthly subscription after receiving the free sample, was to return it – but the sample had to be unused.

Anthony Barnard says:
14 October 2020

Eat a mince pie whenever you like, Eat a sandwich whenever you like etc etc etc

Dennis Ainsworth says:
14 October 2020

All i am interested in is what size of particles the mask will protect others from transmission, if i could but one that keeps out 1 micron i would buy that mode although i know that is not possible. I have noticed that even many of those with filters fitted are no better at keeping particles out than the standard surgical masks. They may make it easier to breath out but by doing so increases the risk of the virus also being breathed out. As an ex firefighter i know the importance of a proper seal.

Peter ALLAM says:
14 October 2020

Is the Government’s Green Homes Scheme the next big thing that will be open to this sort of exploitation? Made an enquiry recently about this & found the recommended Tradesmen were miles away – not even in an adjacent postal code area. This makes getting local recommendations & sorting any aftercare issues difficult. It also prevents supporting & forming bonds with local business’ within your own community.

Peter – It already is! See this current Which? Conversation –

George Foster says:
14 October 2020

I was contacted by what was supposed to be Lloyds bank; it was their number. He knew my name and the last four numbers of my account email home  address was professional and said my account was jeopardised. He asked about transactions that had been attempted then said my account would have to be deactivated and put under a new number and sort code. He talked me through everything and it was the day after I realised and phoned Lloyds to find it was a Scam. £15000 gone. This is ongoing. I haven’t been out for over a week since it happened, I don’t want to face friends or family and I don’t enjoy anything I do. I just want to disappear. I am still waiting for Lloyds outcome of the investigation and hoping they can get my money back. I am a pensioner now on state pension and a fill the cracks personal one that I built up myself  over years. The money in that account was my household running plus savings that I can never replace as I can no longer work. I wake in the middle of the night feeling in a very dark place. I wish I could find the person that did this to me as I would have no problem caving his skull in with a baseball bat as at my age I would be willing to sit in prison and read books for the time I have left…That’s how I feel.
  Most of us internet bank now and the banks want us to do it as they close the branches, my problem started with an O2 Scam massage to pay my monthly bill. It made sense as I had a new debit card, seems this was the set up once they had my details to phone me a few days later. The number on that text was +447932435247  If you get one do not reply.
The Banking system now is high tech and we are dragged into it, if you are careful it works well, but these texts, phone calls, emails plus the online selling scams etc it is so rife it is just a matter of time for many people.
For me I thought it was genuine when I saw Lloyds phone number on my phone, then he asked all the right questions and knew my details .
It’s a Criminal’s Paradise now and as for reporting to No Action Fraud….that’s just for collecting statistics.

GEORGE: you bank will NEVER contact you to make changes over the phone – THAT is the clue it is a scam.

Is the Government’s Green Homes Grant the next scheme to suffer this kind of abuse? After making a recent enquiry found the recommended Tradesman to be way beyond my post code -not even in an adjacent one. This makes it difficult to seek recommendations & support business’ within the local community. Makes it difficult to pursue any aftercare issues too.

Peter – It already is! See this current Which? Conversation –

Michele says:
14 October 2020

I was scammed out of my life savings by a bitcoin employee. Well, they said they were a bitcoin employee. The Bank washed their hands of it despite me having recorded this particular thief, and with lots of evidence. This was a year ago, and has been in the hands of the ombudsman for months. I hold no hope of ever seeing my money again. This has made life financially difficult. I find it difficult to ask for help. At the moment I am managing to feed all my animals and pay Bill’s, but it is becoming clear that when my small amount of money that was left, runs out, I have had it.
I bought enough pills to take should the need arise but am petrified of what will happen to my beloved pets.

Frances says:
14 October 2020

I saw an ad for Keto Diet pills. According to them, the ‘Dragons Den’ had invested millions of pounds,
etc. It was all very convincing. I signed up for the cheapest option of £30-something only to find that out (through my bank) that the company had immediately changed that figure to £199.99 instantly in real time. I wasn’t aware of this. How does the technology allow this to happen? My bank gave me a phone number for the company but when I spoke to them I was told that I couldn’t stop the purchase because the items were already in despatch area (this is in America). The outcome is that I have to wait until this parcel arrives, then return them to America at my cost. Hopefully the company will refund my £199.99!! I am a pensioner and this is a month’s worth of food so you can imagine the stress, now I wait, and am very worried – and angry.

Frances, keto-diet pills are a scam, no matter who sells them. But if someone phones you and tries to sell something , just tell them that you want to think about it. Look up Dragons Den (or whatever) for yourself. If the seller says this is a limited time offer and you must decide now – ANOTHER sign of a scam or at least an unscrupulous seller.

Here is a Which? article about this scam: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/10/keto-diet-pill-scam-targets-facebook-users/

Rather more serious is the possible damage to health. The safe way to lose weight is to eat a balanced diet, eat less and exercise more.

Graham KIDD says:
14 October 2020

I would like to know how much effort is put into actually catching these thieves, and how the scammed can help in this .

At the end of the Intro to this Conversation there is this note –
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.

For the most part, the replies to people’s comments have respected this injunction, but one or two replies have been somewhat judgmental and appeared to rebuke or criticise the contributor.

I trust the editorial team will be monitoring conduct as some of the reports people have made here are deeply personal and highly sensitive and it would be a shame if people were discouraged from writing in. It is good that there is also an opportunity to submit comments privately by e-mail.

Helen says:
15 October 2020

Nowt.v took money out my account even after I complained and didn’t have the now t.v box I had my bank stop this I tried to get my money back but they refused I have told friends and family not to look into now t.v as they con you out of money with out signing up people be aware they are frodsters

I agree & hope the moderators are checking these comments regularly to delete any unhelpful responses to people who have bravely shared their trauma. NB there is also a “report” button below each comment, which can be used flag up issues to moderators.

T-oldgeezer says:
15 October 2020

I did join FB years ago but quickly realised it wasn’t a safe environment and completely stopped using it. Kept intending to get the account deleted but just never had time! My bad! Additionally many years ago, I was signing-up for all kinds of newsletters, competitions etc so my email address is rattling around all over cyberspace. As a result I get more than my share of junk mail, scams and phishing emails. (Recommendation: set up an email alias on your account, never use your main email ID to register for anything).
Anyhow I’m fairly tech-savvy (for my age!!) and fairly savvy in general, but many of these scams are very professional indeed and you have to be alert to the point of Paranoia, to spot some of the clues. That’s my main point here. I’m a fairly robust person, but between the online piranhas and the rogue traders knocking at my door touting tree-surgery or whatever, I can feel the stress of these things building up. I’m certain I’m already mildly Paranoid as a result. It’s probably actually protecting me from hazards that are very real – but I’m certain it ain’t healthy.
I do report many of the phishing scams to “report@phishing.gov.uk” and I believe they do a lot to disrupt the operation of scams. But I’m not confident that anywhere near enough is done to bring the perpetrators to justice. So all these truly evil people are still out there – they just move on to the next scam and the next victim. It seems to me that many large businesses won’t even lift a finger to protect their customers from scams perpetrated in their name – they turn a blind eye and a deaf ear, which I think is disgraceful.

Hi T-oldgeezer,

For emails, junk mail, phone calls and any other cold callers, just remind yourself that you will never enter into any financial transaction unless it was instigated by you.

This shopping checklist might help you avoid online shopping scams or check up on people you might have dealings with.

Have you thought of getting yourself a new email address for important contacts?

Stay safe.