- This year’s most common scams revealed; with scams originating from online sources now accounting for the majority of personal fraud
- More than seven in 10 adults have been targeted by scams in the last 12 months, receiving an average of three scam attempts each week
- The most prevalent scams in last 12 months include phishing scams (37%), trusted organisation scams (21%) and refund scams (13%)
- Experts from NatWest share advice on what to watch out for when it comes to the new ‘mod cons’
The most common scams this year have been revealed – with more than seven in 10 adults targeted by scams in the last 12 months, being hit on average three times each week – over 150 times a year.
Scams through digital platforms, social media firms and telecommunications companies make up the entirety of the top 10 financial scams Brits say they experienced this year, with phishing scams (37%), trusted organisation scams (21%) and refund scams (13%) the most prevalent – as over a quarter (28%) of the nation say they’ve seen an increase in the amount they are being targeted compared to last year.
New research commissioned by NatWest of 2,000 Brits, in conjunction with their own data, showed that almost two thirds (63%) of Brits feel apprehensive about their financial online safety – with 60% worried about losing money to a scammer online.
The bank commissioned the study to highlight the rapid evolution of the methods which scammers use, evident in the range and complexity of the most common scams criminals are currently using to con people out of their cash.
Top scams Brits have been targeted with this year are:
1. Phishing scam (37% of Brits targeted)
Fake emails, calls, messages or websites that seem to be from legitimate organisations which ask you to provide personal/financial information.
2. Trusted organisation scams (21%)
Criminals contacting you impersonating trusted organisations such as HMRC, energy companies or service providers saying there’s something wrong with your account, you owe a fine or similar.
3. Refund scams (13%)
Criminals impersonating trusted organisations telling you that you’re due a refund and asking to share your personal or banking information, such as your one-time-passcode, to receive the refund.
4. Friend or Family scams (12%)
Messages sent to your phone or via social media claiming to be someone you know asking for money urgently to pay bills.
5. Get Rich Quick scams (9%)
Criminals claim that you’ll make money quickly by investing in a company or goods, with the promise of making far more than you put in.
6. Purchase scams (9%)
Criminals place adverts for fake consumer goods and products online, on popular social media and even auction sites to gain money or information. Products often include tech like games consoles, vehicles, concert and event tickets and designer clothing, pets or even holidays.
7. Investment scams (8%)
Criminals encouraging people to invest money into fake opportunities or pyramid schemes.
8. Safe Account scams (7%)
Criminals call pretending they are your bank or the police and that there has been fraudulent activity on your account, and to protect your funds you must move them to a new account to keep them safe.
9. Lottery cons (7%)
Falsely being informed you have won a lottery prize, with a request to send over sensitive personal and/or financial information to claim your prize.
10. Befriending scams (6%)
Criminals create fake accounts on social media and send connection requests, and after building up a friendship they ask for money, login information or other favors.
The new study revealed that 13% of Brits have lost money to fraud, with 7% having lost as much as £5,000 -and a previous NatWest study revealing an average loss of £350 per person.
It also emerged the top cons on the rise this year include purchase scams where criminals place false adverts for products and services that don’t exist, with 24% of Brits seeing an increase in the number of these this year – and four in five (21%) have seen an increase in phishing scams, where false emails and calls are made from what seems to be from a legitimate company.
Trusted organisation scams are also becoming more common – where the con artists pretend to be from a company you use and tell you there is a problem with the service.
61% of Brits agreed that they now see more digital scams (online, social media or via messaging platforms such as WhatsApp) than real life scams (e.g., people coming to the door and asking for money).
Stuart Skinner, Fraud Expert from NatWest, which commissioned the research after its own data showed an increase in the number of scams that customers were being targeted, said: “We continue to see scams on the rise, especially through digital and social media channels. With the increase in new digital tactics used by fraudsters, it’s becoming increasingly harder for consumers to spot, avoid and track.
“Messaging platforms including WhatsApp and social media sites are providing more channels for scammers to operate and reach people through. It can be hard for people to keep up with what they should be looking out for next.”
With digital scams on the rise, 16% know someone who has refused to shop online because they are concerned about being targeted and one in ten (10%) know someone who won’t book their holiday online to avoid being scammed.
While many people are apprehensive about their financial online safety, 42% still don’t think they would fall for a scam. However, 61% are concerned about their vulnerable relatives becoming a target.
Impersonation scams include when scammers pretend to be friends and family, a trusted organisation and service providers account for over 40% of scams amongst the over 55s.
8 in 10 of those polled are also concerned impersonation fraud may become harder to detect in the next five years because of the rise in AI – with 18% saying they have replied to a message from impersonator in the past, initially believing it to be a friend of family member.
NatWest has seen a particular increase in impersonation scams with the over 65s targeted by trusted organisation scams at the highest rate and fraudsters impersonating companies like HMRC, police, service providers, energy companies or even your bank, to try and swindle away money.
Adults aged 18-24 were targeted with the highest number of purchase scams (8% higher on average than last year), which are when criminals place false adverts for consumer goods and products online to scam the buyer out of money or personal information. Goods can include gig or festival tickets, vehicles or designer clothing – with the majority of these scams starting online or via social media.
Experts at NatWest say that they continue to see criminals utilising phishing (tricking people into revealing sensitive information or downloading malicious software through emails or text messages) to gather information about consumers to appear trustworthy when they then contact them – and will also often use timely events as a guise, such as the UK Government’s ‘Energy Bill Support Scheme’ or missed delivery texts.
According to 81% of adults, more should be done to stop scams at their source – though 83% of Brits also want to become more vigilant at recognising impersonator fraud themselves.
Stuart Skinner from NatWest advises: “Talking about fraud with your family and friends is a good way to share information across generations and keep up to date with latest guidance. This is particularly important following the increase in ‘friends and family’ scams, where fraudsters impersonate a family member and ask for cash or information – which our research has revealed is the fourth most common type of scam that Brits say they have been targeted with this year.”
NatWest’s Fraud Prevention Team have shared six tips for what to look out for to avoid these ‘mod cons’:
1. Knowledge share : Discuss scams you are targeted by or hear about with your family and friends and share information about how to spot and avoid them. Sharing knowledge helps us all to keep up with the fast rate that scams are evolving.
2. Be honest with your bank: Scammers may ask you to lie to your bank about what a payment is for. Never mislead your bank about the reason for a payment – if you are honest, your bank will be able to help you.
3. If it’s too good to be true: We all love a bargain but be vigilant when buying from social media and online marketplaces or paying for an investment you’ve come across online. Always do your research and if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Check the contact details on the website, if there is no address or phone number given, this is an indication that the site may not be genuine.
4. Be in the know: Your bank, the police or other trusted organisations will never ask you to transfer money to keep it safe or ask for your full PIN, password or passcode.
5. Take care: Never respond to unsolicited calls, texts, emails or social media messages or open attachments that you feel might be suspicious. They could be criminals attempting to steal your personal information.
6. Use the tools in your banking app: Whether it’s come via email, text or in your banking app, always check your payment requests are going to who you meant them to and pay attention to the scam warnings on your texts and in your banking app. They’re there to keep you safe.
Stuart Skinner, Fraud Expert at NatWest added: “Fraudsters are continuing to develop new and more modern ways of trying to trick people out of their money, and we want to support everyone in what to watch out for. We’d always encourage our customers to get in touch if they have any concern they’re being targeted by a scam.”
For help and advice about fraud and scams, visit: www.natwest.com/fraud-and-security.html
NatWest customers can get additional help and support in the Your Security Profile on your NatWest app.
1 Study of 2,000 Brits by OnePoll commissioned on behalf of NatWest, August 2023