UK Finance: People under 35 are more at risk from impersonation scams

People under 35 are more likely than older age groups to have been targeted in an impersonation scam and be swayed to provide personal or financial information, according to a new survey by UK Finance's Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign.

An impersonation scam is where a criminal contacts you pretending to be a person or organisation you trust. These scams can be very sophisticated and often start with attempts to get you to disclose personal and financial information. They then use this information to impersonate someone you trust, making it seem more believable, but their ultimate aim is to try to steal your money.

71 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds surveyed said they had been contacted by an impersonation scammer, with 73 per cent of those targeted saying they had subsequently been persuaded to either send money or share personal information.

Under 35's were more likely to be approached in a variety of ways (over the phone, email, text and WhatsApp). A recent and growing impersonation scam involves fraudsters sending WhatsApp messages that appear to be from a friend or family member with a seemingly genuine request for money, such as being stranded overseas or urgently needing to pay a debt or a bill.

Risk of misplaced confidence

Across all age groups, significantly more people rated themselves as being difficult to trick rather than easy to trick, but this level of confidence could put them at risk, as fewer than half said they will always take steps to check if the organisation or person can be trusted when asked for personal information out of the blue.

Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, said:

An alarming number of people fall for impersonation scams and whilst our findings show that younger people are the ones who are often targeted, it's important to remember that anyone can be caught out by these criminals and that you should always stay alert.

?Given the level of sophistication of some of these scams, we urge the public to be wary of unexpected requests for personal or financial information. Often these criminals will take their time to gather as much information about you as possible, so it's important that people follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign ? always be cautious of any messages or calls you receive out of the blue and avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails or text messages.

Impressionist and former Britain's Got Talent contestant Francine Lewis from Blackpool knows only too well how convincing criminal scammers can be. Francine and her family fell for a scam which cost them tens of thousands of pounds. Francine says:

I always thought that if I was targeted by a criminal I?d see straight through their scam, but these people are incredibly persuasive. They do their research on you and know what to say to pressure you into handing over information. I love using my impersonations to make people laugh but these scams are no laughing matter. Always stop and think before parting with your money or personal. If someone is pressing you to act immediately, remember only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

Kathryn Harnett, Policy Manager at WhatsApp, commented: 

WhatsApp protects our users? personal messages with end-to-end encryption, but we want to remind people of the other ways they can keep their accounts safe and remain vigilant to the threat of scammers. We advise all users never to share their six-digit PIN code with others, not even friends or family, and recommend that all users set up two-step verification for added security. And, if you receive a suspicious message (even if you think you know who it's from), calling or requesting a voice note is the fastest and simplest way to check someone is who they say they are. A friend in need is a friend worth calling.

To help people stay safe, the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign advice is to:

  • STOP: Take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
  • CHALLENGE: Could it be fake? It's ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
  • PROTECT: Contact your bank immediately if you think you?ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.


Contact Information

UK Finance Press Office
020 7416 6750

Notes to editor

  1. Consumers can report suspicious text messages by forwarding the message to SMS number 7726, which spells out SPAM on a phone keypad.
  2. UK Finance is the collective voice for the banking and finance industry. Representing more than 300 firms across the industry, we act to enhance competitiveness, support customers and facilitate innovation.
  3. The banking and finance industry is committed to tackling fraud and scam texts including through:
  4. Fully funding a specialist police unit, the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), which tackles the organised criminal groups responsible for financial fraud and scams.
  5. Working with text message providers and law enforcement to block scam text messages including those exploiting the Covid-19 crisis. 1087 unauthorised sender IDs are currently being blocked to prevent them being used to send scam text messages mimicking trusted organisations, including over 70 related to Covid-19.
    Working with Ofcom to crack down on number spoofing, which has prevented criminals from spoofing the phone numbers of trusted organisations, including HMRC
  6. Take Five to Stop Fraud is a national campaign that offers straight-forward and impartial advice to help everyone protect themselves from preventable financial fraud.