#NoBlameNoShame campaign launched to encourage people to talk about scams
73% of UK adults – or 40 million people – have been targeted by scams, with 35% - or 19 million – losing money because of this criminal offence[i]. The average amount lost by victims is £1,730, but fewer than a third (32%) report the crime to the authorities, according to new research[ii], released today by National Trading Standards (NTS).
Despite high numbers of scams and the huge financial and emotional impact on victims, these crimes are severely underreported. NTS’s research showed that when people realised they’d become a victim of a scam, the most common feelings were being ‘angry’ with themselves, (46%), feeling ‘stupid’ (40%) and ‘embarrassed’ (38%). Fewer than a third (32%) then reported the crime to an authority such as the police, and 42% did not tell their bank. Two thirds didn’t even tell a relative or friend they’d become a victim.
For those that did report to the authorities, 47% were made to feel stupid or embarrassed. Only 34% felt fully heard and understood, and just 38% felt strongly that their case was taken seriously.
NTS believes it is victims’ shame, combined with the worry that they will not be supported if they come forward, that prevents so many reporting these crimes. This underreporting means the scale and impact of fraud and scams is not fully understood, victim support services are not funded properly, and a sense of blame continues to fall on the victim – all of which effectively gives criminals the green light to keep offending.
This vicious cycle of shame, underreporting and under resourcing may also be contributing to a sense of helplessness in society – an incredible one in five adults (20%) believe they are likely to become a victim of a scam in the next five years. That’s why NTS is launching its #NoBlameNoShamecampaign urging people to talk about scams to reduce the stigma, making victims feel more able to talk and report.
NTS is also calling on the Government to end the current postcode lottery for fraud victims, by ensuring every individual is properly supported, with tailored help depending on their needs. Support should be improved across the spectrum, from better education to prevent people becoming victims of scams, to stronger intervention to prevent victims being repeatedly targeted.
Lord Michael Bichard, Chair, National Trading Standards, said:
“Scams and fraud blight every part of society and it is time for society to fight back. If we can strip away the shame associated with becoming a victim of fraud or scams, by bringing the issue out into the open and discussing our experiences as families and communities, we can reduce the power of the criminals to do harm. Education is key to prevention. Alongside this, I am asking the Government to step up and provide better care for victims, helping us break the cycle of shame, underreporting and under-resourcing.”
The NTS Scams Team recently commissioned an academic report[iii] to consider some of the techniques criminals use with victims of fraud, scams and financial abuse. Perpetrators of these crimes use coercion and control techniques similar to those used by perpetrators of domestic abuse, including isolation, gaslighting and love bombing. Offenders in both types of crimes ruthlessly manipulate their victims into making decisions they would never normally make and leave them feeling ashamed and unable to tell anyone what is going on. This shame is often compounded by other people’s responses, including victim blaming and shaming.
Dr Elisabeth Carter[iv], who co-authored the Coercion and Control in Financial Abuse report and is an Associate Professor of criminology and forensic linguist at Kingston University, said:
“Fraud criminals use language that is designed to manipulate power and distort reality so that their requests make sense and do not cause alarm. The financial impact of this crime is only part of it – the psychological impact of being defrauded can be devastating and long lasting. We need to recognise that victims of fraud are not to blame, and see this crime for what it is – a type of abuse”.
The research also found that criminals most often try to scam people via a phone call, followed by email, text or WhatsApp, and then social media. The landline phone in particular remains a key route to reaching those consumers affected by vulnerability – separate data shows that households with a call blocker received an average of 120 scam and nuisance calls each in the last year alone[v] with the most common scams being ‘insurance’ followed by ‘home improvements’ and then ‘tech support’.
Louise Baxter, head of National Trading Standards Scams Team, said:
“Fraud and scams are at a high, but if victims do not report because they are ashamed or feel they will be blamed, shamed and not supported, it’s impossible for us to build a true picture of the problem. This makes it harder to catch the criminals, but more importantly doesn’t allow us to help and support the victims. We’ve got to put the heat back on the criminals committing the frauds.
“We know that many who do report these crimes don’t feel supported, because there isn’t the investment in the services they need. That’s why we’re working with the Home Office to improve the help available to victims and their families – but there’s always room for more.”
The #NoBlameNoShame campaign is being launched today with practical advice and support on how we should speak about fraud and scams, as well as a video and more information available at www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/noblamenoshame. Information is also being issued to the police, adult social care, local trading standards teams and banks on how to better support fraud, scams and financial crime victims. This is the start of work to ensure victims of fraud, scams and financial abuse are provided with effective, holistic victim support services and are treated the same as other victims of crime.
NTS is asking Government to:
- Provide consistent education messaging, as per measures set out recently by the Home Office.
- Provide effective support for every victim of fraud, including enhanced support where needed.
- Tailor support depending on the crime and needs of the victim. Current support is inconsistent and is effectively a postcode lottery.
- Improve interventions that prevent people getting trapped in a cycle of repeat victimisation. Current statistics reveal a stark picture[vi].
Let’s talk about scams – top tips:
- The first conversation with a scam victim is key. Never victim blame or shame.
- If you get a phone call or message that you know is a scam, tell your friends and family about it. This will help raise awareness– and will show that anyone can be targeted. Take away the shame.
- But avoid sharing ‘warnings’ that have gone viral on social media unless you know the source – these could inadvertently be spreading scam content and misinformation.
- Chat about scams at the dinner table or when meeting with friends – perhaps about a new trend you’ve read about, like cryptocurrency or WhatsApp ‘friend in need’ scams.
- At community gatherings such as lunch clubs, religious events or drop-in centres, consider having a discussion on scams. Find out more at www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/become-a-scamchampion
- If you work with young people, share information about scams – young adults are the most likely to have been targeted – and to have lost money.
- If you know a person who may be affected by vulnerability and you think they may have been a victim or are at risk, bring up the topic gently. You can broach the subject by mentioning a news report or example you’ve seen that sounds similar to their situation. Make sure they know where to get help if they’re worried.
- Ensure everyone in your family knows scams should be reported to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk or on 0300 123 2040. For advice about scams you can call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133, or use their online tool at https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/scams/reporting-a-scam/.
- Visit www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk for information and updates on the latest scams.
Notes to Editors
[ii] Censuswide survey of 2,507 nationally representative UK adults (16+), including at least 500 who have been a victim of a scam/fraud
[iii] In October 2022 the NTS Scams Team published an academicreport: Coercion and control in financial abuse; learning from domestic abuse. The report demonstrates similarities between financial and other types of abuse and identifies how practitioners and organisations with a safeguarding duty can use this knowledge to improve victim care. The report has been launched to politicians and stakeholders, and advice has been prepared for practitioners (police, TS, adult social care and banks) on how to recognise and support coerce and control in scams.
[iv] Dr Elisabeth Carter’s latest research, published in 2023 in The British Journal of Criminology shows the links between fraud and domestic abuse and coercive control: “Confirm Not Command: Examining Fraudsters’ Use of Language to Compel Victim Compliance in Their Own Exploitation” Open Access here: https://doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azac098
[v] Data from trueCall shows that from May 2022-April 2023 there were on average 9,491 trueCall call blocker units in the UK collecting data on calls. During this time, 1,138,374 calls were classified as scam or nuisance calls.
About National Trading Standards
National Trading Standards delivers national and regional consumer protection enforcement. Its Board is made up of senior and experienced heads of local government trading standards from around England and Wales with an independent Chair. Its purpose is to protect consumers and safeguard legitimate businesses by tackling serious national and regional consumer protection issues.