One in four Brits, equivalent to 13 million people, say they have been the victim of a scam, according to new research(1) from Santander UK, while almost three quarters (73%) said they were concerned about falling victim to a scam.

With the latest figures showing losses of almost £11 billion(2) to the UK economy as a result of fraud, the survey also revealed the nation’s relaxed attitudes towards personal security with one in eight (12 per cent) admitting they would reply to an email from somebody they didn’t know, and four per cent confirming they were comfortable giving personal, security or banking details to a stranger. Santander took to the streets to test this further, with alarming results. With the help of Paul Wilson, host of the BBC TV show The Real Hustle, the bank’s video shows that in fact 85% of the people asked readily gave over their bank details.

The survey findings also reveal that over 4.6 million adults (nine per cent) believe their bank would ask for their full PIN, password or other private security details. One in 14 (seven per cent) also believe their bank would ask them to transfer money out of their account for security reasons, or ask for remote access to their computer (six per cent).

In sharp contrast with the general perception, young people do not appear as security savvy as older generations. One in five (20%) of 18-34 years olds believe their bank would ask for their full PIN – double the figure for the nation as a whole. This increased susceptibility to risk is mirrored in other areas for potential scams, as seen in the following table.

Table one: susceptibility to risk – proportion of people believing their bank would make the following requests

Type of request (none of which would be made by a bank via phone or email)Proportion of people believing their bank would make the request
18-34 year oldsAll adults
Ask for your full PIN, password or security numbers20%9%
Ask you to transfer money out of your account for security reasons16%7%
Ask for remote access to your computer to fix an issue with your online banking15%6%
Ask you to reply to an email with your personal or bank details14%5%

Source: Santander UK, 2016

Karen Tyler, Head of Fraud at Santander, said: “Scams can come in many forms and our research highlights how widespread they are. It’s worrying that so many people are unaware of what information a bank will and will not ask for – for example, a bank would never ask you to disclose your full security details.

“Falling victim to a scam can be devastating and it’s therefore so important that people make sure they’re aware of the different types of scams and keep their personal information safe. We have leaflets in our branches, information on our website, and staff available in our branches to help.”

The danger of ignoring gut instinct
While a third (33 per cent) of those who have been scammed claimed they had no idea that something was amiss, two fifths (41 per cent) admitted they felt as if something suspicious was going on, with 17 per cent ignoring their gut feeling at the time. A further 15 per cent admitted that with hindsight they should have noticed something was wrong.

This could explain why the majority of respondents felt angry (64 per cent) when they realised they had been the victim of a scam. The study also reveals how Brits react under pressure with 14% of respondents saying they would do something they are uncomfortable with when pressed.

This week Santander launches its annual initiative to raise awareness of some of the most common scams, such as telephone scams, requests to withdraw cash, remote access scams and payment redirection scams. New leaflets will be available in branch, staff are being given additional training to help customers and a new scam awareness workshop has been produced with Age UK for staff to go out into their local communities to help educate the public.

Paul Wilson, scam expert and presenter of The Real Hustle commented: “Every year thousands of people are targeted by scams, and the number is increasing. Fraudsters operate by gathering pieces of information one bit at a time. By understanding how scammers operate and being vigilant, we can protect ourselves from becoming victims. And remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”

Brits' awareness of scams
When looking at the most widespread scams in the UK, telephone scams are the most well-known type among Brits, with over three quarters (77 per cent) knowing exactly what they are and one in five (20 per cent) having heard of them before.

Table two: types of scams and peoples knowledge of them

Type of scam Proportion who know exactly what it isProportion who have heard of it before
Telephone scam77%20%
Buying and selling scams61%30%
Remote access scam63%26%
Romance / befriending scam60%28%
Requests to withdraw cash52%25%
Payment redirecting scam38%32%

Source: Santander UK, 2016

When asked how they usually hear about scams and who they report them to, the majority of respondents said they heard about them via the media (61 per cent) or through word of mouth from family and friends (51 per cent). Three quarters (75 per cent) of respondents would report a scam to the police and the same figure would report it to their bank.

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The information contained in our press releases is intended solely for journalists and should not be used by consumers to make financial decisions.

Note to Editors

  1. Research was conducted for Santander by Opinium amongst a representative sample of 2,003 UK adults between 18th and 21st November. Figures have been scaled up using a nationally representative sample. The scaled up total value of scams = £5,628,340,470. This is 501 / 2003 = 25% * 51,339,000 (UK pop) = 12,841,157 * £483.30 = £5,628,340,470
  2. Latest online crime figures from Get Safe Online and Action Fraud reveal that a staggering £10.9 billion* was lost to the UK economy as a result of fraud, including cybercrime, in 2015/16.

Santander’s Top 10 Tips to Protect Yourself from Scams

  1. Never give out personal, account or security details (including OTP codes). Santander, the police or any other organisation will never ask you for these in full.
  2. Never allow someone remote access to your computer following a cold call. Never log onto online banking if someone is remotely accessed to your computer.
  3. Don’t rely on caller ID – numbers can be spoofed by fraudsters to make it look like they’re calling from a trusted number.
  4. Always validate requests for new payments or changes to payment details face to face or by calling on an independently verified number.
  5. Santander, the police or any other company, will never call to ask you to transfer your money out of your account for security reasons. 
  6. Never log on or enter/reveal a security code (OTP) in order to process a refund to your account.
  7. When buying/selling online always keep within the website guidance and advice – never communicate offline with a buyer/seller.
  8. Be wary of all cold calls purporting to be from banks, police, or other trusted organisations – if you have any concerns, call back on an independently verified number.
  9. Never log onto online banking after clicking on a link in an email or text message.
  10. Install anti-virus software that includes an anti-phishing programme. Install Trusteer Rapport, it's free and provides an extra safeguard when you are banking online.


    who they say they are.
  3. DON’T BE RUSHED. A genuine bank or organisation won’t mind waiting to give you time to stop and think.
  4. LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCTS. If something feels wrong then it is usually right to pause
    And question it.
  5. STAY IN CONTROL. Have the confidence to refuse unusual requests for information.

About Us

Santander UK is a financial services provider in the UK that offers a wide range of personal and commercial financial products and services. As at 30 June 2016, the bank serves around 14 million active customers with c. 20,000 employees and operates through 841 branches (which includes 58 university branches) and 69 regional Corporate Business Centres. Santander UK is subject to the full supervision of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) in the UK. Santander UK plc customers are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in the UK.

Banco Santander (SAN SM, STD US, BNC LN) is a leading retail and commercial bank, based in Spain, with a meaningful market share in 10 core countries in Europe and the Americas. Santander is among the world’s top banks by market capitalization. Founded in 1857, Santander had EUR 1.52 trillion in managed funds, 12,500 branches and 190,000 employees at the close of June 2016. In the first half of 2016, Santander made underlying profit of EUR 3,280 million.

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