People experiencing mental health problems who fall victim to fraud are less likely to get their money back and twice as likely to fall into debt, Which? research has found.
The consumer champion’s survey of more than 1,000 fraud victims revealed one in five (19%) of those with mental health conditions felt embarrassed about reporting the incident to their bank. This results in some victims staying silent, crimes not being logged and fraudsters going free.
The findings come as Which? Head of Money Policy, Paddy Greene, is giving evidence to the Financial Services and Markets Bill Committee today (Wednesday 19th October).
Which? has campaigned for the introduction of mandatory reimbursement for APP fraud and believes it may help to end the current culture of victim-blaming by encouraging more people to report incidents without embarrassment or fear of facing a grilling by their bank.
Which? found six in 10 (58%) victims of fraud with a diagnosed mental health problem got all or some of their money back. This is compared to two thirds (68%) of victims with no mental health condition.
One in three (31%) had to borrow money from friends or family, compared to one in five (18%) with no diagnosed mental health condition, and were twice as likely to borrow money from a bank (11% compared to only 5%).
They were almost twice as likely to not have enough money for essentials (29%) and go into debt (26%) as a result of fraud compared to victims with no mental health conditions (15% and 12% respectively).
The destructive impact of fraud on people’s health is also explored in the Which? survey.
Around six in 10 (63%) fraud victims said it had a harmful effect on their mental health and four in 10 (39%) said it even negatively affected their physical health.
Six in 10 (59%) said it negatively affected their financial situation, two-thirds (68%) said it negatively impacted their anxiety about finances and seven in 10 (71%) said it negatively affected their stress levels.
Fraud victims were also more likely than the overall population to report feeling little pleasure in doing things, feeling down or depressed, having trouble falling or staying asleep and feeling tired, respondents told the Which? survey.
One person said: “It was horrific. I lost my job because of it, and a lot of other things in my personal life went downhill. It wasn’t a pleasant experience at all and I still feel like it impacts my trust in people.”
Another said: “I feel stupid and ashamed to be scammed. It has affected how I see myself and has led to bouts of depression and anxiety.”
A third victim said: “It was the first time I really trusted this misleading website and I was overwhelmed by self-criticism. Luckily my bank dealt with it very quickly and returned all the money taken out. It would be nice if there was a phone number to chat about this experience to get counselling to soothe my anxiety.”
A fourth said: “It has destroyed my mental health completely as fraud happened to me three times in a year. I’m still paying for it mentally and financially.”
The UK is in the grip of a fraud epidemic. The Financial Services and Markets Bill requires the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) to introduce an obligation on banks and other payment providers to reimburse victims of bank transfer scams.
Under PSR proposals announced last month, banks will be forced to reimburse anyone who loses more than £100 to bank transfer or payment fraud, apart from in exceptional circumstances. This should mean the vast majority of victims are fully reimbursed – putting an end to the reimbursement lottery they face.
The PSR has proposed that any fraud victims deemed to be vulnerable should be reimbursed without exception, meaning those with mental health problems should expect to receive extra support.
Which? says the regulator must be ready to ensure that banks are treating customers fairly and consistently, and prepared to take tough enforcement action against those who breach the rules.
Which? is also calling on the government to prioritise scam victim protection in the Online Safety Bill and ensure it returns to parliament as soon as possible. Which? has previously estimated that the cumulative cost of online fraud to wellbeing is £7.2 billion per year.
Rocio Concha, Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy, said:
“Our survey shows fraud victims experiencing mental health problems are being failed, with devastating effects on their wellbeing and finances.
“New rules to make reimbursement of bank transfer fraud mandatory can’t come soon enough. They must be backed with tough enforcement measures for any banks that flout them and fail to treat their customers fairly.
“The government must also bring the Online Safety Bill back to parliament quickly to ensure vital protections against the flood of fraudulent adverts on the world’s biggest social media sites and search engines become law.”
Notes to editors
- Which? surveyed 1,008 victims of fraud in the UK who had lost money to it in the last two years. Fieldwork was carried out online by Focaldata in May-June 2022 and data has been weighted by age and gender to be representative of victims of fraud using data from the ONS Crime Survey.
- In the survey, respondents were asked if they had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder and the analysis was carried out using the information provided by participants to this question. The unweighted base size for participants with a diagnosed mental health problem is 305, the one for participants with no diagnosed mental health condition is 676.
- While there are legal protections for victims of unauthorised bank transfer fraud, there aren’t for APP (authorised push payment) fraud victims.
- Which? has campaigned for victims of authorised push payment fraud to receive fairer and more consistent treatment from their banks since launching a landmark super-complaint in 2016. For more: https://campaigns.which.co.uk/scams/
- Government must prioritise scam victim protection in the Online Safety Bill – Which?, October 14 2022
- What to do if you’ve been scammed, or have come across a scam – Which?
- Being a victim of a scam can have a serious impact on your mental and emotional wellbeing. If you need to talk to someone, Mind offers a confidential support line (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm) on 0300 123 3393 or Victim Support is available 24/7 on 0808 16 89 111.
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