There were over 3.2 million cases of fraud last year, with many of these cases carried out online. This actually makes fraud one of the most common crimes in the UK. And in 2016 over £10bn was lost by individuals as a result of all fraud cases. But the good news is that lots of the online scams that trip people up are actually avoidable. If you understand how it all works and what the warning signs are.
That's why we've teamed up with Tim Mitchell from. He spends everyday dealing with examples of financial fraud, so we wanted to pick his brains to bring you his insider information on what's going on and how you can stop yourself becoming another statistic.
Hi Tim, thanks for chatting to us. We're always being told online fraud is a big issue but what exactly is it?
Online fraud comes in many shapes and sizes, but most of the time the aim is to get access to your hard-earned cash. It could come from a dodgy email or a message via social media that asks you to share personal details or transfer big sums of money. It might also ask you to a click on a link that suddenly infects your device with spyware or malware designed to get hold of your confidential information and login details.
Why do you think it's so important that everyone, including our users, has a better understanding of how to keep their money safe online?
It's such an important topic to understand because a lot of the time, people who lose money to these scams could probably have avoided it. That's why the work we do atis so important. We’re the longest-established and, we believe, one of the most highly respected sources of information and advice on internet safety and avoiding fraud. We want to spread awareness of how big an issue online safety can be and equip people with the skills to better protect themselves.
I’m responsible for producing all the content on our website, our printed guides and presentations. This involves a lot of writing, a lot of research and talking to other experts to make sure we're providing the best help for everyone.
Just how big of an issue is financial fraud at the moment?
Unfortunately, financial fraud is a massive issue, especially when committed online or over the phone. In fact it took over as the most frequent crime from other, traditional crimes some time ago in the UK. Attempts at committing these crimes are only going to get more frequent as criminals find more clever ways to ply their trade. For example, AI technology could mean that scams become more automated and harder to stop, so we'll all need to start being more vigilant. People are also sharing more and more online these days which can also make people more vulnerable if they're complacent.
What is the number one mistake that trips people up and leaves them vulnerable to fraud?
I’d say it’s apathy, the attitude that “it’ll never happen to me”. Even with financial fraud in the news every day, people still hold this view, and they’re the people that are most likely to get defrauded as they tend to leave things to chance. I really can't emphasise enough that anyone can fall victim to fraud (not just your grandparents).
In fact, whilst over 55s are more likely to be targeted by phishing scams – with almost half having been targeted by fraudsters compared with a third of under 25s – the younger age group actually tend to lose far more money (approximately £600 compared with £200 for the older group). It just goes to show that carelessness can cost.
You’re often out and about chatting to the public about online safety, but we'd love to know what lessons you've been taught by them?
I’m always grateful to hear about people’s own experiences, as it really teaches you about what's out there and what's tripping people up most often. I spend hours at my laptop coming up with the content, but there’s nothing quite like hearing it as it is.
One thing that talking to people has made really clear is that we're all making silly mistakes that leave us vulnerable. When I meet people who have fallen victim to fraud, they often admit how, looking back, they should really have recognised the warning signs. Often it's the most basic things, such as using the same password across all your accounts that's triggered the fraud. Talking to the public has taught me how popular the “it’s never going to happen to me (until it does)” syndrome is. I really want people to know they can help to protect themselves if they take a few simple steps!
What’s the most convincing scam targeting people’s finances’ that you’ve ever seen?
Someone I know wanted to contract hire a car and entered his contact details and the type of car he wanted on a website he’d found via an internet search. He was phoned by a so-called leasing firm with what seemed like a great deal, different from others in that although the payments were realistic, the lease itself was extraordinarily flexible in how it worked. The caller’s knowledge and professionalism was so convincing that he got tricked into parting with a deposit and month’s lease payment up front. He even received paperwork on letterhead in the post, but only realised it was an elaborate scam when the car didn’t turn up on the appointed day. When he searched online, he found that around 100 other people had fallen for the same scam, and we’re talking big sums of money.
And just for fun, what about the least convincing scam?
I suppose that to me, the least convincing scams are those that we in the industry call ‘419’ scams, emails typically claiming to be from a foreign government minister or civil servant saying that you’re being gifted a massive sum of ‘surplus’ money. They normally lead to a request for an advance payment from the recipient as an ‘arrangement fee’. I say least convincing, but very sadly, a lot of vulnerable people still fall for them in the hope that their ship has come in, and lose a fortune. What’s even more heartbreaking is that many people fall for these scams over and over again.
Now you've met him, why not check out Tim's article all aboutfor his expert tips or head to to explore more of their articles and helpful guidance.