SCOTS are among the most likely people to have been the victim of fraud in the UK, according to a survey published yesterday.
One in eight adults north of the Border has been hit by fraudsters in the past year.
“Online fraud places younger age groups more at risk”Expert Tim Cooper
The proportion equalled that of the north west of England, the poll for the insolvency trade body R3 found. This compares to one in nine people across the UK, with only London being higher, where one in six had been hit.
People in debt and in younger age groups were among those worst affected.
The figures come months after R3 described the scale of fraud in the UK as “staggering”.It said total losses last year were estimated at £52 billion, including more than £9bn being lost by individuals.
The survey found more than one in five – 22 per cent – of those questioned who were “extremely” worried about their debts had been fraud victims.
This compared to only one in 15 of adults free of debt worries.
Those aged between 25 and 34 were in the age group which suffered the most – one in six.
They lost an average of £1,408 each compared to the overall average of £1,016.
R3 said the figures for that age group reflected the prevalence of online fraud.
It said other common types of fraud included credit cards, phishing – attempts to elicit personal information from fake bank e-mails – and door-to-door scams.
Those over 65 suffered the second-highest cost of fraud, averaging £1,322, with one in eight of the age group affected.
No detailed Scottish figures were available from the survey of 2,000 people, which was conducted in March.
R3, which stands for rescue, recovery, and renewal, is also known as the Association of Business Recovery Professionals.
Scotland chair Tim Cooper said: “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 consumers don’t take things at face value, especially online.
“E-commerce may be convenient, but convenience is not a substitute for due diligence. If things look too good to be true, they very often are. 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.” R3 also repeated its call for insolvency firms to be given extra powers over fraudsters’ assets to increase the chance of victims being repaid.
However, it acknowledged this would need the approval of both the UK and Scottish governments.
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) reported an increase in people seeking help with fraud, which it said could help prevention. Policy officer Fraser Sutherland said: “It’s very sad that there are so many people who are keen to exploit people’s trust and relieve us of our hard-earned money through deceit and trickery.
“But the good news is that Scots seem to be fighting back more.
“Last year, CAS saw a 14 per cent increase in the advice we gave on fraud, with early figures showing another likely increase this year.
“More and more people are coming to us to report scams and fraud, and we help pass on all the information to the relevant enforcement authorities.
“Even if you haven’t actually been the victim of a scam yourself, you should still report any you know about, so that we can help protect people from it and maybe bring the perpetrators to justice. If someone took money out of your pocket, you would report it to the police. Online fraud is no different.
“We need to work together to raise awareness of fraud and stamp it out. Every one of us has a role to play in that.”
CAS said people should be sceptical about offers that seemed “too good to be true”, not be harassed into making quick decisions, and carefully check who they were dealing with before disclosing any personal financial information.