How to avoid becoming a victim of financial scams

Essex has been revealed as a hotspot for retail/consumer scams and online banking fraud, by Which? P

Essex has been revealed as a hotspot for retail/consumer scams and online banking fraud, by Which? Picture: JESSICA HILL - Credit: Archant

People in Essex are more likely to have fallen for retail and consumer scams and online bank fraud than anywhere else in the country, consumer watchdog Which? has revealed.

Using police data from Action Fraud, the main reporting body for scams in the UK, Which? mapped out hotspots of reported fraud as well as looking at ONS crime survey data.

Essex stands out in the research both for complaints from customers about retail and consumer scams, as well as cheque, plastic card and online banking fraud. Both figures are well above the national average.

Elsewhere in the UK, people in Sussex are more likely to be victims of romance scams, Norfolk is a hotspot for computer fixing fraud, and London is the capital of online shopping and investment cons.

Which? money editor Jenny Ross said: "Fraud is spiralling out of control, so any measures that can help combat this worsening crime - such as the introduction of vital name check security for bank transfers - should be quickly introduced.

"The Government must set out an ambitious agenda - with real accountability - to finally tackle the growing threat from scams, which are having a devastating impact on the lives of victims."

And there are fears the reported figures are just the tip of the iceberg - as many scams go unreported.

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Be smart to avoid scams

Scams may start with an email from someone who claims they need a small loan to help unlock untold riches - or a fraudster posing as an estate agent who needs a deposit for a non-existent property.

Of the reports made to Action Fraud in the past two years, online shopping and auctions fraud is the biggest reported type of scam, with 86,127 cases.

This is followed by advance fee fraud with 78,686 cases, computer fixing fraud with 38,891 reports alongside 35,502 cases of cheque, plastic card and online bank fraud.

Which? also found the typical age of fraud victims varies depending on the type of con trick.

The average age of someone making a report to Action Fraud over the past two years is 49.

On average, victims of rental fraud, where prospective tenants are typically tricked into paying a deposit, are aged 33 - reflecting the younger age of many people living in the rental sector.

The average age of victims of both ticket fraud and online shopping or auction fraud is 37.

Older people are more likely to report being targeted by bogus investment schemes. The average victim is 64.

Have you been the victim of a financial scam? Contact Trading Standards for help and advice. Share your experiences with us via email.