New research by Citizens Advice contradicts the widely perceived belief that the elderly are most at risk from scammers. The findings show that 9% of under 34s have fallen victim to a scam, compared to just 2% of over 55s.

68% of respondents believed they had been contacted by someone trying to scam them during the course of 2021, which is equivalent to almost 36 million people when extrapolated across the entire UK adult population.

The older age groups are still the most likely to be targeted by a scammer (73% of over 55s compared to 57% of under 34s) but younger people are very much at risk from scammers using electronic contact methods. 73% of scam attempts on the over 55s are made by phone, while 61% of efforts to swindle younger age groups are made by text or another messaging service.

Of all the scams Citizens Advice has seen:

  • 54% concerned deliveries of parcels and other items
  • 41% involved the criminal pretending to be a government official of some type
  • 12% concerned a dubious investment or some form of ‘get rich quick’ scheme

The number of scams reported to Citizens Advice in the first five months of 2021 was more than double (123% higher) the number reported in the same period in 2020. Scams via unsolicited emails are up by a massive 667% over 12 months.

Their tips for identifying a scam include:

  • The price of the goods or services being offered might be much cheaper than normal
  • The company contacting the potential victim doesn’t provide a postal address
  • The person encourages the potential victim to take advantage of what’s on offer quickly
  • The person making contact asks for money to be transferred in an unusual way, such as via iTunes vouchers
  • The company fails to come back with written confirmation of what has been agreed between the two parties
  • The communication asks the recipient to disclose passwords or PINs

Research agency Opinium surveyed a representative sample of 2,086 adults on behalf of Citizens Advice.

Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“From fraudulent get rich quick schemes to dodgy texts, opportunistic scammers continue to prey on even the savviest of consumers. Our research shows that when it comes to scams anyone can be targeted, and anyone can be tricked.

“It’s more important than ever we all do our bit to report scams when we see them to help protect ourselves and others. By learning how scammers operate, and helping each other understand what to look out for, we can all work together to stop fraudsters in their tracks”

Paul Scully, Consumer Minister, said: 

“As these figures show, absolutely anyone can be the victim of a scam. Criminals don’t care who they’re scamming, as long as they get what they want.

“You might think you’re really tech-savvy, but we’re now seeing scams so convincing they’d give a computer programmer pause for thought.”

Louise Baxter, Head of the National Trading Standards Scams Team, said:

“This disturbing rise in scams shows that financial abuse is now a part of everyday life in the UK. They are becoming more mainstream and more sophisticated, backed by a rising influence of organised crime networks in scams and fraud that are seeking to exploit the pandemic.

“These rising cases of scams and fraud are deliberately designed to deceive victims and can cause emotional distress, social isolation, a loss of confidence, financial loss and in some cases physical effects caused by the loss, shame and stress. Just being targeted by scams has been shown to damage people’s wellbeing.”