New research has revealed that 5% of UK adults online have been scammed since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
The survey released by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) found that more than 2.6 million adults online have fallen victim to scams since the government introduced the first lockdown measures.
The online Consumer Confidence Survey also found that more than half of the public believe consumer scam protection is underfunded.
We know that, anecdotally at least, scam activity has increased sharply throughout the pandemic. The incidences of online and real-world scams have increased significantly.
This survey shows that consumers are vulnerable to scams, with 2% reporting they lost more than £500 to a scammer since last March. That accounts for more than 1 million people in the UK.
YouGov carried out the survey and asked people about their consumer confidence both before and after the pandemic, along with their exposure to scams and any losses incurred.
51% of those surveyed said they believe public scam protection services are underfunded. Only 9% believe funding is adequate.
The survey also found that 56% of consumers do not believe current consumer protection laws are fit to stop negative experiences for consumers.
Funding constraints for scam protection resulted in Worcestershire Trading Standards announcing last month that it could no longer intervene in mis-sold item disputes. Instead, the service will focus on areas where it has a legal duty to protect consumers.
With 83% of the public saying they have received a scam approach since the onset of the pandemic, the scale of the issue is significant.
CTSI Chief Executive, John Herriman, said:
“This survey provides a sobering message for the system protecting consumers. The majority of the public does not believe that existing measures are suitable for their protection, while a clear majority believes scams protection is underfunded. It is also alarming that only 9% of people reported a product, business, or scam when 83% said they received a scam message, indicating an evident lack of engagement between the public and scam protection agencies.
“Trading Standards Officers and other consumer protection professionals are working extremely hard under very challenging conditions to protect the public at a time of unprecedented challenges. It’s incredibly frustrating for them to know consumers are at risk but too often to be able to do anything about it due to resource constraints and competing priorities.”