Four in 10 UK adults experienced a scam attempt in the last year

  • Four in 10 (41%) UK adults experienced a scam attempt in the last year
  • 14% of these personally fell victim to the scam, equating to 3.6 million UK adults
  • On average, victims of financial scams lost £4,715, or £17.0 billion nationwide (1)
  • 8 million UK adults have been targeted or know someone that has been targeted in the last 12 months (2)
  • Young people are more likely to have lost money through a scam

New research (3) from Canada Life can reveal that one in two (51%) UK 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 £17.0 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 are 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, commented:

“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 financials scams becoming ever more intrusive and sophisticated Martin Lewis recently was 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 these  so should you fall victim, know that you are not alone and these criminal scammers can only be held accountable and brought to justice if the authorities and platforms know about it.”

Scammers do not age discriminate.

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.

Brits are conscientious of AI enabling scammers.

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.

Some do not speak up following scam attempts.

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%).

Sources –

  1. 6m people personally fell victims to scams multiplied by the average amount they personally lost (£4,715) = £17.0bn (or £16,974,000,000)
  2. 1,012/ 2,000 = 51% of UK adults have been targeted or know someone that has. (Q2). The UK adult population (18+) is 52.9m and 51% of these is 26.8m
  3. Source: Research among 2000 UK adults conducted by Opinium, with fieldwork between 7th – 11th July 2023.

Check for known scams and use the tools to help identify a potential scam.

Next article: Aviva: nearly three million do not know whether they can retire comfortably