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Increasing awareness of risks posed by financial scams

Exposing the reality of financial scamming

A BU team is leading research into protecting the elderly and most vulnerable in society from financial fraud.

Image of Professor Keith Brown holding scam booklet BU's Professor Keith Brown, Director of the NCPQSWPP, with the Financial Scamming and Fraud guide.

Financial abuse through scams is a 21st century crime that is growing fast. Figures from The Office of National Statistics (ONS) England and Wales show that police recorded over 662,000 fraud offences from October 2016 to September 2017, and that an estimated 3.2 million incidents of fraud took place in the same period. It is a problem which particularly affects the older generation – the average age of a victim is 75.

The National Centre for Post-Qualifying Social Work and Professional Practice (NCPQSWPP) at BU is working in partnership with government and trade bodies to raise awareness of the scale of the problem and to gain a greater understanding of the reasons why people are drawn into a scam. To date, their work has bridged the research gap into the scale of the problem, highlighted the impact of scams on the lives of victims and the wider UK economy, and is informing best practice nationally.

In 2017, the National Centre was awarded the Chartered Trading Standard Institute’s (CTSI’s) first institutional Hero Award for its significant contribution to understanding the relationship between adult social care and Trading Standards enforcement.

To raise further awareness of the risks linked to financial scamming, the National Centre worked with Conor Burns MP and CIFAS, the fraud prevention organisation, to create a new All Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Crime and Scamming. In 2018, the National Centre produced the All Party Parliamentary Group report (Financial Scamming and Fraud), which was launched in parliament and sent to every MP. 

£16bn
The money seized from criminals in the last five years
22m
The number of fraudulent items that Royal Mail estimate they have stopped reaching UK households since 2014

Financial scamming guide

As part of the NSPQSWPP’s campaign to raise awareness of the prevalence of scamming and its pernicious impact, the Financial Scamming and Fraud Guide offers advice and guidance on what to watch for and how to avoid falling foul of scamming techniques and schemes.

The guide describes the types of scams currently taking place in the UK (ranging from internet scams to doorstep crime and mail scamming), as well as the scale of the problem, and outlines the campaign plan to protect vulnerable people from falling victims to scams. It also describes the sophisticated methods used by criminals to target people, sometimes over a long period of time.

The guide was created in partnership with the CTSI, National Trading Standards Scams Team, North Yorkshire Trading Standards, and City of London Trading Standards. This collaborative approach is vital when it comes to raising awareness. As well as the creation of the guide, it has also led to a copy of the Centre’s textbook Safeguarding Adults: Scamming and Mental Capacity being issued to every Trading Standards team in the UK by the CTSI.

Louise Baxter MBE

National Trading Standards Scams Team Manager at National Trading Standards

I cannot commend Bournemouth University's research and impact highly enough, they have truly been national leaders and they are widely known as the leading university in the UK in this area.

Further collaborations

Building on the guide, the NCPQSWPP has also been working with Age UK to develop a learning package, called the Scams Prevention and Victim Support toolkit. The pack aims to increase awareness of the risks posed by involvement in financial scams to older adults. Alongside the learning materials themselves, learning tools and games have been developed to engage the public in discussions about the risks involved.

More recently, the NCPQSWPP teamed up with the Burdett Trust for Nursing to publish a set of learning materials for community nurses and healthcare professionals targeting the work of scammers and the safeguarding of victims of financial abuse. These materials have been launched by the NHS England Safeguarding Team and the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland, being made freely available to all staff. The workbook, in particular, is supported by digital stories and a quick reference guide. It features a number of exercises for professionals looking at areas like the impact of scamming on health and wellbeing, mental capacity, scam typology and some of the psychological tactics employed by scammers.

The National Centre also works with a range of other partners, including in the financial services sector, to reduce the frequency and impact of financial scamming. Among these is Lloyds Banking Group, where learning resources have been developed to support frontline staff to better understand the needs of vulnerable customers and The Society of Later Life Advisers (SOLLA) who have sought advice from the NCPQSWPP. 

In 2014, the Royal Mail and the National Centre launched a joint initiative to prevent mail scam in the UK. Royal Mail commissioned the National Centre to carry out research to support their understanding of how mail scams target specific groups by exploring demographic variables and high-scam mail postcodes. Royal Mail included the National Centre’s research as a key element of their campaign to stop fraudulent mail reaching UK households.

Catherine Randall

Deputy Head of Safeguarding, Nursing Directorate - Nursing and Midwifery Team, NHS England

The work of the National Centre particularly in the area of financial scamming has been of real value and significance within the NHS. Their innovative and ground-breaking work has been widely presented and informed practice within the NHS.

Identifying loneliness as a key factor

The National Centre is also working in a number of research areas, including a two-year research project commissioned by the Burdett Trust for Nursing to investigate the impact of scam involvement.

“We are researching the experiences of victims and also identifying effective interventions. One way to disrupt and prevent financial scams is to identify the reasons – such as loneliness – why people are drawn in by them,” explains Professor Brown.

Professor Keith Brown talks about financial scamming

Loneliness exposes people to a diverse range of significant risks to mental and physical wellbeing. It affects people of all ages but is often triggered by particular life events such as bereavement, poor health, or cognitive impairment. Survey evidence shows that nearly three-quarters of elderly people in the UK report feelings of loneliness.

Building on previous research, the BU team found that successful interventions aimed at alleviating loneliness are those that focus on wellbeing and promoting ways of developing a person’s resilience and social networks. Facilitating social engagement in community activities to promote older people’s self-esteem can help. This can then reduce the likelihood that they will respond to scams. Equally important is raising awareness, empowering people to safeguard themselves against scams.

The work of the NCPQSWPP, in collaboration with its partners, has resulted in a significant increase in national awareness of the scale of financial scamming. Through these efforts, we are now seeing a national reduction in mail and telephone fraud, preventing thousands of citizens from being defrauded by scams and saving hundreds of thousands of pounds from being lost through fraud in the process. The National Centre’s multitude of projects to raise awareness of financial scamming have either had, or look set to have, a positive impact on society – equipping individuals with practical advice on limiting the impact of scamming or, better still, how to not fall victim to this crime.

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