How loneliness can put people more at risk of being scammed - The Leamington Observer

How loneliness can put people more at risk of being scammed

Leamington Editorial 23rd Apr, 2022   0

Many people have felt lonely or isolated during the pandemic – and in some cases, it can leave them more at risk of being scammed.

Having a trusted second opinion – whether it’s about someone you’ve met online, or a cold caller claiming to be from your bank – can stop scams in their tracks.

Nationwide Building Society recently found a quarter (25%) of those who have experienced loneliness or social isolation at least once a week also say they have been scammed at some point.

This is higher than the 21% of people generally who have fallen for a scam.

Humans crave social contact, and this might override your natural instincts. Nationwide found one in 10 (12%) people would carry on engaging with someone they were chatting to online, even if they suspected their motives.

Ed Fisher, head of fraud policy at Nationwide Building Society, says:




“We’re all suggestible to a degree. Loneliness and isolation might exacerbate it, because you haven’t got somebody to talk it through with. You can’t just turn to your husband, wife or partner and say: ‘I’ve just had a call from the bank’.

“And they can’t independently say: ‘Well that sounds odd, what did they say?’ You don’t have that checkpoint.”


Ed Fisher, head of fraud policy at Nationwide Building Society. Picture credit: PA Photo/Nationwide Building Society.

Fisher explains fraudsters might play on people’s sense of confusion about what is really happening, and put them in a “fight or flight state” – giving the false impression there is an emergency, and they need to act quickly.

A romance scammer might invent a sob story about why they need cash urgently, or fraudsters posing as bank staff could say their victim needs to transfer money quickly into a “safe account”, for example.

Fisher adds:

“They’re tapping into an emotional response you might have. It could be fear that they use, it could be love, it could be a number of different things. If there’s any form of confusion, you’re much more likely to trust someone who sounds confident or kind.

“Trust can be built up over time, or it can be built quickly. Scammers are quite skilled at finding the right buttons to push.”

Nationwide – who has launched a ‘scam checker service’ members can use either in branch or by calling 0800 030 4057 – is also part of the Banking Protocol, a rapid response anti-fraud initiative. Branch staff are trained to detect warning signs of a scam and can make an emergency call to the police, who will arrive quickly and provide additional advice – or even arrest any suspects, if they believe they are coercing the customer.

Sometimes, it can take time to convince people they have been scammed, Fisher says. When the protocol is invoked, the police will sit down with the potential victim alongside staff, to help bring an understanding of what has happened.

One trend Nationwide has seen is social media messaging scams, where a fraudster pretends to be someone the person knows, asking them to add new contact details and delete the old number they have for them.

“They’re forcing you to cease contact with the actual person, and they’re creating this random new contact from a number you haven’t seen before,” Fisher explains.

However, scams are not always carried out by strangers. Fisher says:

“We have some heartbreaking cases where it turns out to be someone they know, or someone that’s linked to them somehow.”

Fraudsters may befriend people, potentially by offering to do their shopping for them, but using their card to withdraw funds for themselves instead. Fisher says:

“They might appear to almost be your saviour, because you’re on your own.”

Whatever the situation, talking things through and making loved ones become aware of the latest scams can help them find safe ways to get support.

Fisher adds:

“This is all about a mutual responsibility for everybody. If we can have more human conversations, then together we will be able to protect people and disrupt these awful scams.”

For more helpful tips check out Action Fraud. Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime where you should report fraud if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cyber crime.

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