Over 40 million targeted by scammers as the cost-of-living crisis bites
Millions more people have been targeted by scammers as the cost-of-living crisis takes hold, new research by Citizens Advice has found. More than three quarters of UK adults said they have been targeted by a scammer this year - a 14% increase compared to this time last year.
The most common types of scams reported included:
Deliveries, postal or courier services (55%)
Someone pretending to be from the government or HMRC (41%)
Someone offering a fake investment or financial ‘get rich quick’ schemes (29%)
Rebates and refunds (28%)
Online shopping (24%)
Health or medical (13%)
Energy scams (12%)
Ahead of many households receiving vital government help for the cost-of-living crisis, Citizens Advice and the Consumer Protection Partnership have launched their annual Scams Awareness campaign to help people protect themselves from opportunistic scammers.
Citizens Advice has seen a range of different cost-of-living scam tactics used by scammers. These have included emails claiming to be from the regulator Ofgem asking people to enter their bank details to get the £400 energy rebate, or claiming the government is giving £200,000 out at random to people who are of pension age, disabled or on a low income.
‘When I checked my balance my heart dropped’
Sheree, 65, lives alone and has around £800 a month from her private pension and Personal Independence Payment benefit to cover her essential bills and care. She was targeted by a scam which saw the fraudsters spend almost £1,000 on her card - despite her having never shopped online.
She said: “When I checked my balance my heart literally dropped. I had no money, I couldn't buy any food.
“I went to Citizens Advice, I was so distraught and really upset. I really do not know what I would have done without the food and fuel vouchers as I don’t have anyone to ask for help.
“My bank did manage to get my money back, but the whole thing was extremely stressful. My health really suffered over those couple of weeks as all I was doing was worrying about how I was going to eat and pay my bills.”
For information on the genuine types of help available and how you’ll receive it see If you're struggling with living costs and Grants and benefits to help you pay your energy bills.
Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:
“We know scammers prey on our worries and fears and the cost-of-living crisis is no exception.
“Anyone can be targeted by a scam, and as the purse strings are tightened and financial pressures pile on, it’s more important than ever we recognise the red flags.
“By reporting scams and sharing our own experiences, we can work together to protect ourselves and each other.”
Consumer Minister, Paul Scully, said:
“While the government is providing £37 billion this year to help families with the cost of living, it is disgraceful that scammers are using the difficult times families have been facing to try and rip them off.
“I urge everyone to report scams to Citizens Advice so we can stop these crooks in their tracks.”
John Herriman, Chief Executive of Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said:
"Everyone is at risk of being scammed but the cost-of-living crisis results in more and more consumers facing increasing levels of vulnerability. This means they face even greater risks of being caught by unscrupulous and illegal practices by those who are intent on exploiting the already difficult situation people find themselves in.
“At a time when the sad reality is that some are having to make choices between heating and eating, people can be particularly vulnerable to, for example, fraudsters offering cheaper energy. It is crucial that the public is wary of all these threats and that they contact the authorities if they suspect any attempt to defraud them or others."
Wendy Martin, Director, National Trading Standards, said:
“Criminals are exploiting people’s worries as household bills rise. Consumers are being put under increasing pressure from a wave of scam emails and cold calls from imposters pretending to be from councils or energy companies. We urge people never to give bank details or other personal information to anyone who contacts them out of the blue as legitimate organisations would never put you on the spot in this way.
“We want as many people as possible to be aware of these scams so they can protect themselves and their families. Scams should always be reported so we can catch the criminals, and everyone can arm themselves with the information they need to stay safe by taking part in our free Friends Against Scams awareness training at friends against scams.org.uk.”
Citizens Advice consumer expert Jane Parsons gives her five top tips to stay scam aware:
She said: “With the volume of scams on the rise, it’s important for us all to take steps to safeguard ourselves and others against scams.”
Jane warns it might be a scam if:
It seems too good to be true – for example, scammers pretending to be energy companies to lure people into “too good to be true” deals
You suspect you’re not dealing with a real company, organisation or a genuine person – take a moment to step back and double-check
You’ve been pressured to transfer money quickly
You’ve been asked to pay in an unusual way – like by an iTunes vouchers or a transfer service
You’ve been asked to give away personal information such as passwords, PINs or other verification codes.
If you’ve been scammed:
Talk to your bank or card company immediately if you’ve handed over any financial and sensitive information or made a payment
Report the scam to Citizens Advice. Offline scams, like telephone, post and doorstep, to the Citizens Advice website or by calling 0808 223 1133. Report online scams to the dedicated Scams Action service either online or on 0808 250 5050
Text scams can be reported to your mobile phone provider by forwarding it to 7726
Also report the scam to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
Notes to editors
Yonder Data solutions surveyed a representative sample of 2,088 adults living in the UK. The sample was weighted to be nationally representative of the UK. Fieldwork took place between 18 and 19 May 2022.Polling respondents were asked the following questions:
Since the beginning of the year (1 January 2022), have you been contacted by anyone that you think was trying to scam you? 1,616 out of 2,088 respondents (77%) said they had been contacted by someone that they think was trying to scam them, this included 5% who said they had been scammed.
Using the Annual Population Survey estimates via Nomis of 53,200,000 adults (18+) in the UK, we estimate that this has affected 41 million people
What kind of scam were you targeted by? Please specify all that apply (respondents could have ticked multiple answers): Deliveries, postal and courier services; Government or HMRC; Investment or financial; Rebates and refunds; Banking; Online shopping; Health or medical; Online dating / relationship; Energy; Pension; Pets; Employment; Other
Scams Awareness is an annual campaign which aims to create a network of confident, alert consumers who know what to do when they see a scam. This year's campaign will take place over two weeks, from the 13 -26 June. The campaign includes a range of organisations across the Consumer Protection Partnership, including Trading Standards, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and Citizens Advice Scotland.
Citizens Advice is made up of the national charity Citizens Advice; the network of independent local Citizens Advice charities across England and Wales; the Citizens Advice consumer service; and the Witness Service.
To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
For consumer advice, call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133 or 0808 223 1144 to talk in Welsh.