Online Scams: "The volume crime of the 21st century"

Scammer impersonated actor Jason Statham in online scam.

Scammer impersonated actor Jason Statham in online scam.

There was an interesting article on BBC News today about a fraudster scamming hundreds of thousands of pounds from a woman by pretending to be actor Jason Statham on Facebook. The frequency of these types of news story is increasing rapidly, reflecting the huge scale of online scams happening every day.

Online Scams: The Volume Crime of the 21st Century

In fact, the scale of it led Det Con Craig Moylan of Greater Manchester Police to say, “It's the volume crime of the 21st Century”. To his force alone there are thousands of victims reporting scams every month.

In this case, the criminal posed as the actor on Facebook and targeted the victim while she was on one of the actors fan pages. Targeting victims like this in a relevant situation - like while on the fan page - is a commonly used way to make the scam slightly more realistic.

The scale of these scams is huge! Over half of over 65s have been targeted by a scam and it is estimated to cost the UK economy between £5 billion and £10 billion per year.

It would never happen to me

It is really easy to read the article and think ‘What an idiot! That would never happen to me.’, but there is a good chance that it will happen to you or someone close to you in the near future. Scammers don’t make money from those who are savvy about online security and scams, they make money from uninformed, vulnerable individuals. These are the individuals who didn’t grow up with the internet and are not comfortable with technology.

They also make money from the informed when they let their guard down or are hit with a very realistic, targeted scam.

Consider this scenario in one of our cases recently. A cleaner who uses a website to find potential work was contacted on the platform via is messaging function. The scammer pretending to need a cleaner and babysitter communicated with the victim with lots of detail about the house and family. As the discussion was being finalised, the scammer requested the cleaner do a background check and provided a link to the site. This was the site they wanted to use as it was only £7 for the check compared to the usual £35. The site looked legitimate, but was a fake site that harvested card details and personal information to enable the criminal to steal money and potentially the cleaners identity. In this scenario, where it is part of your day to day job and going to a website to do a background check isn’t out of the ordinary it can be hard to spot.

Protect yourself and others from scams

Those who are knowledgeable about scams have a responsibility to help others spot and avoid them. Share news and articles about scams on your social media and talk to those around you who might be vulnerable.

If you or someone you know needs help you can use our chatbot to either solve your issue or be put in touch with a cyber security expert. We also have a number of guides for dealing with common scams such as phishing (scam emails), smishing (scam text messages), vishing (scam phone calls), online auction fraud and romance scams such as catfishing.

Some key things to keep you safe:

  • Trust your gut - almost all the scam victims we have worked with felt something was wrong at some point in the scam. Trust your get and stop if something doesn’t feel right.

  • Think - Does it make sense? Would Jason Statham contact you on Facebook and eventually ask you for money? Probably not.

  • Take your time - take a step back and take your time. This is especially important if someone is trying to rush you into making a decision, click a link or pay some money.

  • Be suspicious - Of everything! People contacting you online, clicking on links in emails, people with a sob story, things that are too good to be true…

More reading on online scams

There are lots of organisations doing good work to raise awareness of scams. Here are some key ones who have good information on their websites: Take Five, Friends Against Scams and Action Fraud.

NewsRory InnesScams, Fraud