A ‘vicious cycle’ of shame and underreporting has sparked a new National Trading Standards (NTS) campaign that aims to take the stigma out of being scammed.
Launched by the NTS Scams Team, the #NoBlameNoShame campaign is urging people to talk more openly about scams, and aims to create an environment in which victims feel more able to talk about and report their experiences.
NTS research shows that 19 million UK adults have lost money to scammers, with the average amount lost standing at £1,730 – but just 32% of victims have reported it.
According to the research, the most common response among scam victims was feeling ‘angry’ with themselves (46%), and feeling ‘stupid’ (40%) and ‘embarrassed’ (38%). Fewer than a third (32%) 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 had become a victim.
Among those who did report to the authorities, 47% say they 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 says it believes that victims’ feelings of shame, combined with the worry that they would not be supported if they came forward, means that such crimes are significantly underreported.
According to NTS, “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.”
NTS has also revealed that one in five adults (20%) believe they are likely to become a victim of a scam in the next five years.
Lord Michael Bichard, Chair of NTS, 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.”
NTS is also calling on the Government to end what it describes as the ‘postcode lottery’ for fraud victims, by ensuring every individual is properly supported, with tailored help depending on their needs, better education to prevent people becoming victims of scams, and stronger intervention to prevent victims being repeatedly targeted.
Louise Baxter, head of the NTS 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 NTS Scams Team commissioned the Coercion and Control in Financial Abuse report to examine some of the techniques criminals use with victims of fraud, scams and financial abuse. The report’s co-author, Dr Elisabeth Carter, 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 #NoBlameNoShame campaign includes practical advice and support on how to talk about fraud and scams, as well as a video and other resources available here. Information is also being issued to the police, adult social care, local Trading Standards teams and banks on how to better support fraud and financial crime victims.