This week, on our national social media accounts, we’re raising awareness of the stigma that can result from being a victim of fraud. Our fraud project officer, Gina Almeida, has written about the importance of language when supporting those who have experienced fraud.
Language such as ‘fallen for it’ or ‘how did you believe it?’ can be harmful to victims as it places blame on them for not doing enough or protecting themselves. In reality, we should be asking ‘how can we help victims to recover from this, and to prevent it from happening again’?
Our supporters regularly hear from victims of fraud about comments made to them or the fear they feel in telling those around them about being defrauded. Fraudsters utilise a variety of tactics; social engineering, building rapport with victims, making threats to victims or their families and much more.
Fraud currently accounts for 41%[i] of all police-recorded crime in England and Wales. It is now predicted to rise by at least 25% in the next five years[ii]. Fraud is also significantly under-reported[iii], due in part to the shame and stigma often associated with it, and it is increasingly impacting younger people[iv].
In 2022, fraud became the most likely crime experienced in the UK[v].
Unfortunately, anyone is susceptible to fraud and with many fraudsters making use of technology and social media, it’s extremely likely that we will come into contact with fraudsters or a scam. This may be through online advertising, a scam call or text message or identity theft, with fraud being committed using someone’s details.
A lot of the language used when talking about fraud, and specifically victims, implies that the fault lies with the victims for not protecting themselves well enough, or not recognising that it was a scam.
Rather than seeing victims are responsible for what has happened to them, we need to recognise the challenges in identifying when something is a scam and how difficult it can be to respond. Fraud is complex and many victims tell us they feel ashamed to talk about their experience or struggle to acknowledge what has happened. This can prevent victims from reporting fraud or accessing support, both of which are important steps in preventing future fraud and helping people to recover from its impacts.
The role that we all play in this is being considerate and purposeful in the language that we use. For example, terms such as ‘they fell for it’ implies the scam was obvious and the victim fell into a trap they should have noticed. We want to encourage language that avoids placing blame on victims and helps them to recognise that we understand the difficulty in identifying fraud and how convincing they can be.
We can all make an effort to consider how the language we use might impact victims of fraud. By actively avoiding language that places blame on victims, and instead helps rebuild their confidence or increase their awareness of fraud, we can create a more supportive space for victims to share their experience and know where to turn. If you know someone who has been a victim of fraud and want to help them, we have a supporter’s guide on our digital platform My Support Space with lots of useful ideas on how to respond to and help someone who’s experienced fraud. If a victim appears to be blaming themselves, gently remind them that they aren’t to blame. You can also use our fraud safety checklist to find out what to look out for or do if you suspect someone is in contact with a scammer.
We support victims of fraud to help rebuild their confidence and manage the impact that the fraud has had on them in a non-judgemental way. We also work with a number of other organisations to raise awareness of fraud and ensure victims’ voices are being heard (media work).