One-in-nine British adults (11%) say that they have been targeted by fraudsters in the last year, with victims losing an average of £1,016, according to research by insolvency trade body R3 and ComRes.
In a possible sign of the prevalence of online fraud, younger people were more likely to say they have been a victim of fraud than older people.
Those aged 25-34 years old are most likely to report being a victim of fraud, with 16% experiencing fraud in the last year. Fraud victims in this age group say that they lost an average of £1,408 each.
Commenting on the research, R3 president Phillip Sykes says: “It may be surprising that younger generations are the most likely victims of fraud, but online fraud does place younger age groups more at risk.”
“It’s important that consumers don’t take things at face value, especially online. Ecommerce may be convenient but convenience is not a substitute for due diligence. If things look too good to be true, they very often are.”
The insolvency profession has called on the government to take advantage of insolvency practitioners’ anti-fraud powers to help consumers.
Phillip Sykes explains: “Formal insolvency proceedings empower insolvency practitioners to go after fraudsters and return money to victims. In fact in some circumstances, the profession has wider powers than government agencies.”
“The re-introduction of criminal bankruptcy, or making fraudsters bankrupt in the public interest, for example, would extend the circumstances in which an insolvency practitioner can pursue all of a fraudster’s assets on behalf of creditors. Fraudsters would find it much harder to avoid repaying victims by hiding behind companies or squirrelling assets away overseas or with friends and relatives.”
Although the share of over-65 year olds (12%) that has been a victim of fraud in the last year is in line with the national average (11%), the average cost of fraud for this age group was the second highest of all age groups (£1,322).
The research also found that those most worried about their debts were most likely to be a victim of fraud: 22% of British adults who are ‘extremely’ worried about their current level of debt have been a victim of fraud in the last year, compared to 7% of adults not worried about their debts.
Phillip Sykes comments: “It’s saddening that the most financially precarious are also the most vulnerable to fraud.”
“It may be that there’s a role for improved adult financial education. A lack of knowledge about finances can not only contribute to financial difficulties but it also makes it easier for fraudsters to perpetrate their scams.”
Londoners are the most likely to fall victim to fraud, with one-in-six (17%) saying they have been defrauded in the last year.
R3 is the trade body for Insolvency Professionals, and represents the UK’s Insolvency Practitioners.