One In Four Brits Have Fallen Victim To A Scam: Watch A Scammer In Action

New research from Santander UK reveals that one in four Brits, 13 million adults, have been the victim of a scam.

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With the latest figures showing losses of almost £11 billion to the UK economy as a result of fraud, the survey also revealed the nation’s relaxed attitudes towards personal security with one in eight (12 per cent) admitting they would reply to an email from somebody they didn’t know, and four per cent confirming they were comfortable giving personal, security or banking details to a stranger. Santander took to the streets to test this further, with alarming results. With the help of Paul Wilson, host of the BBC TV show The Real Hustle, the bank’s video shows that in fact 85% of the people asked readily gave over their bank details:

The survey findings also reveal that over 4.6 million adults (nine per cent) believe their bank would ask for their full PIN, password or other private security details. One in 14 (seven per cent) also believe their bank would ask them to transfer money out of their account for security reasons, or ask for remote access to their computer (six per cent).

In sharp contrast with the general perception, young people do not appear as security savvy as older generations. One in five (20%) of 18-34 years olds believe their bank would ask for their full PIN – double the figure for the nation as a whole. This increased susceptibility to risk is mirrored in other areas for potential scams, as seen in the following table.

Table one: susceptibility to risk – proportion of people believing their bank would make the following requests

Type of request

(none of which would be made by a bank via phone or email)

Proportion of people believing their bank would make the request
18-34 year olds All adults
Ask for your full PIN, password or security numbers 20% 9%
Ask you to transfer money out of your account for security reasons 16% 7%
Ask for remote access  to your computer to fix an issue with your online  banking 15% 6%
Ask you to reply to an email with your personal or bank details 14% 5%

Source: Santander UK, 2016

Karen Tyler, Head of Fraud at Santander, said:

“Scams can come in many forms and our research highlights how widespread they are. It’s worrying that so many people are unaware of what information a bank will and will not ask for – for example, a bank would never ask you to disclose your full security details.

“Falling victim to a scam can be devastating and it’s therefore so important that people make sure they’re aware of the different types of scams and keep their personal information safe. We have leaflets in our branches, information on our website, and staff available in our branches to help.”

The danger of ignoring gut instinct

While a third (33 per cent) of those who have been scammed claimed they had no idea that something was amiss, two fifths (41 per cent) admitted they felt as if something suspicious was going on, with 17 per cent ignoring their gut feeling at the time. A further 15 per cent admitted that with hindsight they should have noticed something was wrong.

This could explain why the majority of respondents felt angry (64 per cent) when they realised they had been the victim of a scam. The study also reveals how Brits react under pressure with 14% of respondents saying they would do something they are uncomfortable with when pressed.

This week Santander launches its annual initiative to raise awareness of some of the most common scams, such as telephone scams, requests to withdraw cash, remote access scams and payment redirection scams. New leaflets will be available in branch, staff are being given additional training to help customers and a new scam awareness workshop has been produced with Age UK for staff to go out into their local communities to help educate the public.

Paul Wilson, scam expert and presenter of The Real Hustle commented:

“Every year thousands of people are targeted by scams, and the number is increasing. Fraudsters operate by gathering pieces of information one bit at a time. By understanding how scammers operate and being vigilant, we can protect ourselves from becoming victims. And remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”

Brits’ awareness of scams

When looking at the most widespread scams in the UK, telephone scams are the most well-known type among Brits, with over three quarters (77 per cent) knowing exactly what they are and one in five (20 per cent) having heard of them before.

Table two: types of scams and peoples knowledge of them

Type of scam Proportion who know exactly what it is Proportion who have heard of it before
Telephone scam 77% 20%
Buying and selling scams 61% 30%
Remote access scam 63% 26%
Smishing 61% 27%
Romance / befriending scam 60% 28%
Requests to withdraw cash 52% 25%
Payment redirecting scam 38% 32%

Source: Santander UK, 2016

When asked how they usually hear about scams and who they report them to, the majority of respondents said they heard about them via the media (61 per cent) or through word of mouth from family and friends (51 per cent). Three quarters (75 per cent) of respondents would report a scam to the police and the same figure would report it to their bank.

Santander’s Top 10 Tips to Protect Yourself from Scams

  1. Never give out personal, account or security details (including OTP codes). Santander, the police or any other organisation will never ask you for these in full.
  2. Never allow someone remote access to your computer following a cold call. Never log onto online banking if someone is remotely accessed to your computer.
  3. Don’t rely on caller ID – numbers can be spoofed by fraudsters to make it look like they’re calling from a trusted number.
  4. Always validate requests for new payments or changes to payment details face to face or by calling on an independently verified number.
  5. Santander, the police or any other company, will never call to ask you to transfer your money out of your account for security reasons.
  6. Never log on or enter/reveal a security code (OTP) in order to process a refund to your account.
  7. When buying/selling online always keep within the website guidance and advice – never communicate offline with a buyer/seller.
  8. Be wary of all cold calls purporting to be from banks, police, or other trusted organisations – if you have any concerns, call back on an independently verified number.
  9. Never log onto online banking after clicking on a link in an email or text message.
  10. Install anti-virus software that includes an anti-phishing programme. Install Trusteer Rapport, it’s free and provides an extra safeguard when you are banking online.

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