Four in 10 adults have experienced a scam attempt in the past year

15th August 2023

New research from Canada Life has revealed that one in two (51%) adults have or know someone who has experienced a financial scam attempt in the last 12 months. This equates to approximately 26.8 million UK adults. Of these, 3.6 million went on to personally fall victim to the scam.

The average amount lost to scams was £4,715 per person, or £17 billion as a nation. More than two in five victims (43%) got all their money back, but over a quarter (26%) unfortunately didn’t recover any of their stolen funds.

The top three financial scam types are tax or debt collection (32%), advance fee scam (25%) e.g., someone tells you you’re inheriting a sum of money that requires you to pay an upfront fee or provide your bank details, and “hello mum” scams (23%) when a scammer poses as a child or grandchild requesting an urgent bill or payment to be made. Most people (40%) have been targeted to part ways with their hard-earned money, via email, text, or voicemail – otherwise known as phishing, smishing or vishing.

Julia Peake, Tax and Estate Planning Specialist at Canada Life, said “With the cost-of-living crisis continuing to squeeze many households, it’s a real field day for criminals and scammers to target vulnerable people. They are opportunistic and play on insecurities, family connections and fear, taking advantage of crises and market disruptions both home or around the world, and the number of people being targeted seems to be going up.”

“With the development of AI and fake adverts, the range of communication and types of financial scams are becoming ever more intrusive and sophisticated. Martin Lewis was recently a victim of this and took to the airwaves to air his concern and raise awareness with the public.”

“If you experience a scam attempt, or if you fall victim to one, the best thing you can do is to speak up and report it. Unfortunately, the reality is that many people could be caught up in a scam so, should you fall victim, know that you are not alone. These criminal scammers can only be held accountable and brought to justice if the authorities and platforms know about it.”

The findings show that those who are aged 55 or over are more likely to have been targeted (48%) in a scam attempt but are less likely to have been a victim and lost money (9%) than younger demographics. A greater proportion of young people (in the 18–34 bracket) have personally fallen victim to a financial scam (18%) than those in an older age group.

Of those who experienced a scam attempt, 7% said this was via AI. Two in three (67%) UK adults agreed that AI will make financial scams more sophisticated, while half (48%) believe AI will make it more likely that they would fall for a financial scam.

Three in ten (30%) didn’t contact anybody after experiencing a financial scam attempt, rising to 38% amongst those aged 55 or over. For those that did seek support, the most common source approached were the victim’s bank (28%), the police or related organisations (14%), family members (10%), the platform where they experienced the scam attempt (10%), or the person or business that the scammer was purporting to be (9%).