UK Government: Social and Psychological Implications of Fraud

Psychology of Scams

Authors:
•  UK Parliament – Government of the United Kingdom
•  SCARS Editorial Team – Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

About This Article

Fraud poses a significant threat to the UK, with 4 in 10 offences targeting individuals. The government’s 2023 Fraud Strategy aims to combat this, emphasizing victim support and prevention.

While stereotypes of elderly victims persist, fraud risks vary due to psychological and social factors. Beyond financial loss, fraud inflicts emotional and psychological harm.

Victims often report fraud to banks rather than authorities. Effective prevention strategies involve education and enhanced victim care. This POSTnote underscores the multifaceted nature of fraud and the need for comprehensive, collaborative approaches to mitigate its impact on individuals in England and Wales.

UK Government: Social and Psychological Implications of Fraud - 2024

UK Government: Social and Psychological Implications of Fraud

The Complex UK Challenges of Fraud Against Individuals in the United Kingdom: Insights and Strategies for Prevention

An Analysis of the Psychology and Sociology of Scams & Fraud

The UK Government has acknowledged fraud as a “significant threat to the people, prosperity and security of the UK”.

In 2023, fraud was the most common offence against individuals.

There are many different types of fraud against individuals, such as bank and credit account frauds or purchase frauds. Government and stakeholders have highlighted particular concerns about ‘authorised push payment’ (APP) frauds, where fraudsters trick victims into making payments or sharing information like account details. These often involve ‘social engineering’, where fraudsters create a direct relationship with victims to manipulate them.

Government, law enforcement, private sector and third sector bodies are involved in the response to fraud against individuals. Following rises in fraud during the Covid-19 pandemic, since 2023, there has been a renewed government focus on addressing fraud and its impacts. The cross-sector Home Office-led Fraud Strategy aims to reduce fraud by 10% from 2019 levels by December 2024. It includes specific aims to improve victim support; reimburse more victims; and improve communications. Other policy developments include the Online Safety Act 2023 and the Online Fraud Charter.

This POSTnote focuses on fraud against individuals, although fraud can also occur against public sector, commercial and charitable bodies. It applies to England and Wales; legal, policing and criminal justice approaches to fraud may differ in the other nations of the UK.

Key points

  • Fraud accounts for 4 in 10 offences against individuals. 6% of adults were a victim of fraud in 2023. There are many types of fraud, such as purchase or romance frauds. Fraud changes quickly and much is cyber-related.
  • The UK Government’s 2023 Fraud Strategy includes aims to improve victim support, reimburse more victims and improve communications. It also seeks to prevent more frauds from taking place. This will involve actions by government, law enforcement, the private sector, and individuals.
  • The stereotype of elderly fraud victims is inaccurate compared to observed fraud risks. Psychological and social factors may affect risk, for example, individual personalities, circumstances, or market-related vulnerabilities, such as demand for rental accommodation.
  • In addition to financial loss, fraud can cause emotional, psychological and health impacts, and can harm people’s relationships. Impacts may vary for individual victims, and by different fraud characteristics.
  • Victims are most likely to report fraud to their bank or account provider, rather than the national reporting service Action Fraud or police.
  • The published evidence base for fraud against individuals is limited. However, academics and practitioners suggest several areas to consider in implementing effective fraud prevention, including education, and victim care.

Psychological & Social Impact on Fraud Victims

UK Fraud Analysis from Parliament Report April 2024
UK Fraud Analysis from Parliament Report April 2024
UK Fraud Analysis from Parliament Report April 2024

UK Parliament Post Report: Social and psychological implications of fraud

UK Government: Social and Psychological Implications of Fraud – 2024

Important Information for New Scam Victims

Statement About Victim Blaming

Some of our articles discuss various aspects of victims. This is both about better understanding victims (the science of victimology) and their behaviors and psychology. This helps us to educate victims/survivors about why these crimes happened and to not blame themselves, better develop recovery programs, and to help victims avoid scams in the future. At times this may sound like blaming the victim, but it does not blame scam victims, we are simply explaining the hows and whys of the experience victims have.

These articles, about the Psychology of Scams or Victim Psychology – meaning that all humans have psychological or cognitive characteristics in common that can either be exploited or work against us – help us all to understand the unique challenges victims face before, during, and after scams, fraud, or cybercrimes. These sometimes talk about some of the vulnerabilities the scammers exploit. Victims rarely have control of them or are even aware of them, until something like a scam happens and then they can learn how their mind works and how to overcome these mechanisms.

Articles like these help victims and others understand these processes and how to help prevent them from being exploited again or to help them recover more easily by understanding their post-scam behaviors. Learn more about the Psychology of Scams at www.ScamPsychology.org

SCARS Resources:

Psychology Disclaimer:

All articles about psychology and the human brain on this website are for information & education only

The information provided in this and other SCARS articles are intended for educational and self-help purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for professional therapy or counseling.

Note about Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices have the potential to create psychological distress for some individuals. Please consult a mental health professional or experienced meditation instructor for guidance should you encounter difficulties.

While any self-help techniques outlined herein may be beneficial for scam victims seeking to recover from their experience and move towards recovery, it is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional before initiating any course of action. Each individual’s experience and needs are unique, and what works for one person may not be suitable for another.

Additionally, any approach may not be appropriate for individuals with certain pre-existing mental health conditions or trauma histories. It is advisable to seek guidance from a licensed therapist or counselor who can provide personalized support, guidance, and treatment tailored to your specific needs.

If you are experiencing significant distress or emotional difficulties related to a scam or other traumatic event, please consult your doctor or mental health provider for appropriate care and support.

If you are in crisis, feeling desperate, or in despair please call 988 or your local crisis hotline.

PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.

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The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of the Society of Citizens Against Rleationship Scams Inc. The author is solely responsible for the content of their work. SCARS is protected under the Communications Decency Act (CDA) section 230 from liability.

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