A worrying knowledge gap has been highlighted as research reveals a large percentage of people would willingly withdraw their own money at the request of a fraudster posing as the Police.
The poll, by Nationwide Building Society, of more than 2,000 people shows that Brits are at risk of putting themselves in compromising situations due to a lack of awareness of scams and the ways in which criminals try to trick people into handing over their hard-earned money.
Although the poll shows that fraud education work is getting through to many Brits, with just over a third (34%) indicating they would not fall for the scams posed in the research, three in ten (30%) would still transfer their own money into another account ‘to keep it safe’, if requested to do so by someone they believed to be representing the Police. This is despite the fact that neither the Police nor National Crime Agency (NCA) would ever ask anyone to do this.
It appears goodwill or a sense of civic duty could prove to be the main downfall for unsuspecting victims, with 29 per cent willing to withdraw their own cash from their bank branch or building society in order to hand it over to the ‘authorities’ to check for suspect fingerprints. While the Police or NCA would never request such action, scammers posing as law enforcement sometimes claim that branch staff are engaged in illegal activity in order to dupe their victims into playing an active role in handing over their money.
In addition, more than a fifth (22%) of those surveyed would be prepared to withdraw their own money to purchase counterfeit goods from a retailer, hand the items over to the Police and then wait for a refund. Again, neither the Police or NCA would ever request a member of the public do this.
Contrary to popular belief, the research found that caution, rather than susceptibility, increases with age, as those over 55 are the least likely to fall for these impersonation scams, with more than half (52%) saying they wouldn’t be willing to part with their own cash in the ways suggested in the research. This contrasts with just 13 per cent of those aged 16-24.
In fact, this younger age group were the keenest to use their own funds to help the ‘Police’. Close to half (48%) of 16-24 year olds say they would move their own money into a new account to keep it safe if told they were personally at risk of being the victim of fraud, 39 per cent would withdraw their own cash to have it fingerprinted by Police and just under a third (31%) would purchase counterfeit goods on behalf of the ‘Police’, again with their own money.
On a regional basis the research shows that Londoners are the most at risk, with more than half (54%) willing to follow any of the requests, followed by those living in the West Midlands (52%), and those in Wales and the North East (both 49%) (see Notes to Editors for full breakdown).
The survey shows men are far more cautious than women, with more than a third (37%) not prepared to help the Police in any of the ways suggested. This compares to just 30 per cent of women who said the same.
Stuart Skinner, Nationwide’s Director of Fraud, said: “It might be surprising that many people believe it is credible that the Police would request them to use their own money to help with an investigation, but people do fall for this scam. It shows that the key to thwarting the scam artists and fraudsters is education. We’d urge people to learn as much as they can about the tricks that scammers use.
NCA Director of Prosperity, Donald Toon, said: “No-one genuinely working for the NCA would ever ask a member of the public to use their own funds to help in an investigation. It’s upsetting that well-meaning people are being taken advantage of in this way, and vitally important that the public are made aware of official counter-fraud advice such as Take Five – a preventative anti-fraud campaign supported by the UK Government, NCA and law enforcement more widely, to combat scams such as this one.
Director of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said: “Fraudsters will try every trick in the book to try and convince their victims to part with their money. We often see reports where fraudsters will impersonate police officers and officials. If you think you have been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud.”