Launching ahead of National Poetry Day on 1 October, ‘Santander’s Scam Sonnets’ aim to raise awareness of investment fraud - which is when a fraudster offers a fake but convincing opportunity to make a profit by handing over a sum of money.
Pam Ayres’ Have you got some money? and Suli Breaks’ Too good to be true, incorporate words and phrases from real scam emails, online adverts and telephone calls received by investment scam victims.
New research of 2,000 British adults carried out by Santander reveals that only 4 in 10 Brits say they know what an investment scam is. But a quarter (25%) of Brits have been affected or know someone who has been affected by an investment scam, with £10,000 lost on average.
In the research, over a quarter of Brits (29%) reported either a partial or total loss of earnings since the outbreak of Covid-19 - potentially making them more susceptible to the lure of a money making investment scam, a fact being exploited by fraudsters with 27% of Brits also saying they have been more heavily targeted by scam communications since the pandemic and lockdown began.
New figures published by UK Finance on 24 September revealed a 27% increase in investment scams compared to the same period last year - with £55.2 million lost in the UK in the first six months of 20202. The increase is mirrored by Santander’s own data with May 2020 seeing the highest single monthly volume of investment scams that the bank has ever had reported by customers3.
Investment scammers commonly target people aged over 55 who are preparing for retirement and want to see their savings and pensions go further. Santander’s own data reveals that customers aged over 55 have reported 75% of the value of investment fraud in the last 12 months.
Santander’s research also found that on average, Brits aged 55 and over are being contacted at least once a week by what they believe to be financial scammers. While the most common approach reported was email (71%), followed by unsolicited phone calls at (40%), fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated tactics to persuade victims to invest in bogus opportunities.
Fake websites and celebrity endorsements
Fraudsters methods include impersonating or cloning credible investment firms online. This means that when a would-be investor searches for investment opportunities, they may be unknowingly visiting a website that a fraudster has copied from a legitimate investment firm. Worryingly, nearly half (49%) of Brits say they would rely on researching an investment firm online to confirm their validity.
With 41% of Brits also admitting they would feel more confident about an investment opportunity if they believed it was endorsed by a famous face, Santander is urging would-be investors to see beyond the use of fake celebrity and influencer endorsements - a common trick used by fraudsters to encourage people to invest in cryptocurrency scams.
Social media and cryptocurrency scams
Santander’s research also reveals that almost a third (31%) of 35-54 year olds report being targeted with financial scams online and on social media. This correlates with a rise in cryptocurrency scams, where fraudsters use social media to target potential investors and promote fake online cryptocurrency trading platforms. In the first six months of 2020, Santander saw a 235% increase in the value of reported cryptocurrency scams.
Dan Standish, fraud strategy at Santander says, “Fraudsters are extremely clever, convincing and have taken the time to practice and hone their techniques. Their confidence, apparent expertise and friendly demeanour can all make a scam investment opportunity difficult to spot.
“That’s why, ahead of National Poetry Day, we’ve worked with two fantastic poets, Pam Ayres and Suli Breaks, to help bring these dangers to the front of the public’s mind in an engaging way. By using the language of the scammers, we aim to help the public spot the familiar words, phrases and signs of investment fraud early before it’s too late.”
Poet Pam Ayres says, “Fraudsters target and dupe their victims with their clever use of language - professional, confident and reassuring communications that draw you in and make you feel in complete control. Sadly, the reality is far from it. That’s why, ahead of National Poetry Day, I’ve partnered with Santander to use the language of the scammers to help the public spot the signs of a scam and protect themselves from the devastating effect of investment fraud.”
Suli Breaks, performance-poet, says, “You think you’ll never be the victim of an investment scam, but it really can happen to anyone. Aspirational social media posts, the clever use of celebrity and the promise of a ‘now or never’ opportunity all exist to make a scam appear real and push you to take advantage of their ‘amazing returns’ - but we all need to watch out for each other, and remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”