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More than £373m lost to repeat victims of fraud in 2019/20

Vicky Shaw, PA Personal Finance Correspondent
·5-min read

More than £373 million was lost by repeat victims of fraud in the financial year 2019/20, police figures show.

Criminals may pose as fraud recovery services in order to scam people who have already been the victim of a fraud.

A repeat victim was defined as someone who has made more than one report to the UK’s national fraud reporting centre Action Fraud, with the most recent report being made during 2019/20.

The average repeat victim lost £21,121, but those who had been victims of investment fraud lost around four times this amount typically, at £84,604, according to data from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) at the City of London Police.

The NFIB analysed the Action Fraud figures as part of a national campaign to raise awareness of investment fraud, involving the City of London Police, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the National Economic Crime Centre.

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The NFIB discovered that the average loss by a repeat victim of fraud who reported at least one investment fraud was 14 times the average loss by all victims of fraud.

Worryingly, more than half of investment fraud victims decline victim support during the reporting process, it said.

Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said: “The victim support service offered by Action Fraud is vital in preventing people falling victim to a second, third or even fourth fraud. Since its inception in 2014, our specialist victim advocates have engaged with over 102,000 victims and only 17 of these individuals have gone on to report another fraud.

“When you consider these findings from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, it’s clear we need to do more to engage victims of investment fraud so they can receive our specialist advice and support to prevent them falling victim to further fraud.”

The NFIB’s research also found men were twice as likely to report being victim to at least one investment fraud, and lost three times as much as women typically.

However, women were twice as likely to report falling victim to both an investment fraud and a dating fraud.

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Some repeat fraud victims were targeted by fraud recovery scammers.
This is often a tactic used by organised crime groups to steal even more cash from fraud victims.

Criminals will contact fraud victims purporting to be from their bank, a law enforcement agency, solicitors or a “specialist recovery” firm.

They will often already have some knowledge of the victim’s case and will claim to be able to help the victim get their money back, or some amount of compensation, for a fee. This is often because it is the same criminal targeting the victim again, or the victim’s details have been sold on the dark web to other criminals.

Once the fee is paid, the criminals will keep requesting further costs, claiming this has to be paid before the money can be returned. In some cases they will ask the victim for their bank account details so they can send them the recovered money. This is another scam and they will use the information to empty the victim’s bank account.

Graeme Biggar, director general of the National Economic Crime Centre, said: “There is something deeply cynical and cruel about criminals who target those who have already been a victim of fraud.

“If you are offered the opportunity to get your money back by a person or organisation that knows the details of your initial fraud experience, it is likely that they have this information because they are the same criminals that scammed you in the first place, or have links to them.”

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Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: “Consumers should always be wary of cold calls and promises to recover funds lost to a scam, as these are often signs of an attempted recovery fraud taking place.

“If you’re under pressure to make a quick decision or a payment, there’s a very good chance you’re talking to a scammer.

“Be ScamSmart and check the FCA Register to make sure that the firm you are dealing with is authorised to perform the service they are providing for you, and use the contact details on the FCA Register.”

The ScamSmart website, www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart, gives tips to spot the techniques used by fraudsters and hosts the FCA Warning List.

The warning list is a list of firms and individuals that the FCA knows are operating without its authorisation.

The tool helps people search the list, find out more about the risks associated with an investment or pension opportunity, and the steps they can take to avoid scams. People can also call the FCA consumer helpline for further information on 0800 111 6768.