The Victims’ Commissioner has recently published the first stage of her research into victims of fraud – Fraud victims. It is a useful analysis of the potential profile of fraud victims and the impact the crime might have on them and is a welcome addition to the debate on the need for fraud victims to be recognised, heard and supported. The second stage of the research will look at the support offered to fraud victims and we await its publication.
Recently the BBC highlighted the potential costs of scamming – Costs of scamming, estimated by Which? to be in the region of £9bn a year. That is the equivalent of £2,509 a year for each victim, but the impact can be higher for someone hit by online fraud.
People targeted by fraudsters have spoken of suffering from anxiety and ill-health after being scammed. Which? says the cost to well-being is higher than the typical financial hit of £600.” And the banking trade body, UK Finance, has described the level of fraud as a national security threat.
The economic costs of scams and frauds is, no surprise, matched by the emotional, psychological and societal impact of these crimes and, for too long, victims have not been properly supported or even acknowledged.
It does seem that the banks are now starting to recognise some of their responsibilities in relation to fraud victims, though some are much better than others at making sure victims are reimbursed when they are subjected to what is a most pernicious and intrusive crime. But this is not before time; is long overdue that fraud victims are being heard and their concerns and needs addressed.
We are used to telling victims of assault, domestic abuse, sexual assault, robbery etc that the only person to blame for the crime is the perpetrator: just because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time; just because I didn’t do exactly as he or she wanted; just because I had a couple of drinks and chose to dress in the way I did does not mean that I am responsible for what happened to me, that I brought it on myself. It is well overdue that fraud victims should be told the same: no one is to blame but the fraudsters or scammers. So these two reports will certainly assist, we hope, in developing the much needed approach where fraud victims can have confidence to report the crime knowing that they will be heard, their concerns addressed and appropriate support offered. The government is in the process of introducing a new national fraud and cybercrime reporting system to replace Action Fraud and this too is a welcome development.
It is also important that support organisations look at how they can improve their approach to fraud victims: better access, better communications (especially given that much fraud is online and victims may have diminished, if any, confidence of accessing services online). It is simply unaffordable, as well as unacceptable, that fraud victims and the impact of the crime on them, and on us, their fellow citizens, has for too long been under the radar. The demand for change is clear and we hope that these important reports help bring about a more robust, comprehensive and supportive approach to fraud victims, giving us all the confidence to know that if we too fall victim to this potentially devastating crime we will be helped through the experience.
For advice on how to avoid scams, the website, Take Five, offers some useful information: https://takefive-stopfraud.org.uk