By Laura Toffolo
A few years ago, I logged onto my online banking to find my balance was a lot lower than expected. I was in my final year at university and approaching my exams, which meant days on end with my head down at a library desk.
The light at the end of the tunnel was the occasional take-away as a pat on the head for a day’s hard work.
A lump gathered in my throat as I saw how little was left in my account. I couldn’t fathom how I could’ve spent so much money. Surely my Deliveroo habit hadn’t escalated that far out of control? Sure enough, a quick scroll through my recent transactions revealed that take-aways were only part of the problem. So too were designer clothes I’d never purchased and a hotel payment for a night away I’d never attended. I called my bank straight away. I had been scammed.
I soon learned that my experience wasn’t unique. Almost everyone I spoke to had a friend, family member or colleague with a similar story. Unfortunately, scams are far too common. According to Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) polling, almost half of Scots have knowingly been targeted by a scammer in the past year.
Despite this, research shows that people often still feel a sense of shame about falling for a scam. This prevents them seeking help with the financial and emotional impact.
This is one of the reasons Scams Awareness Fortnight (SAF) was created a decade ago. We in CAS were proud to be a part of setting it up, along with Trading Standards Scotland, Police Scotland and other partners. This year’s SAF is well underway (13 to 26 June). It aims to encourage people to talk about their experiences of being scammed, to reduce the stigma and shame associated with falling victim of a scam.
Sadly, the current cost of living crisis is likely to mean an increase in scams. Scammers love to take advantage of a crisis. From the COVID19 pandemic to recessions, often difficult times are met with an increase in related scams. And now as energy prices begin to soar there are reports of bogus energy companies or price comparison groups offering ‘too good to be true’ deals to steal people’s money.
And so, it is more important now than ever to be vigilant, but also to share your experiences with others so that they know what to look out for - and to underline that there is no shame in falling victim to a scam. The shame is theirs, not yours.
Our advice website has lots of information on how to identify a scam and what to do about it. Go to www.citizensadvice.org and search for our scams pages. If you have been financially impacted by a scam, you can of course get advice at your local CAB.
In general, be vigilant, trust your gut feeling, and if you do come across a scam, report it to the correct authorities – again our website tells you exactly how to do that.
But also. tell others about your scam experience – like I just did (above). A public that is empowered to talk about scams will also be energised to spot and take action against them.