Con victims fall under the ‘spell’ of scammers

Victims willingly give trusted criminals access to their personal information and funds, and lie to their banks.

Experts warn this practice contributed to the £580million stolen through fraud in the first half of 2023.

Dr Elisabeth Carter, associate professor of criminology and forensic linguist at Kingston University told the Express: “Fraud criminals use language that is designed to manipulate.

“Once they create a sense of normality, trust and safety, they then subtly develop the communication by adding requests that do not cause alarm, but devastatingly, end up in financial and psychological harm.

“We need to recognise that victims of fraud are not to blame and see this crime for what it is – a type of abuse that mercilessly harnesses and exploits out ingrained rules of social interaction to hide in plain sight.”

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Banks prevented a further £651million of unauthorised fraud from being snatched through advanced security systems, UK Finance said. But the sway of The Spell often compels victims to lie to banks who are trying to protect them.

Ann and James, a retired couple from West Yorkshire lost thousands to scammers using The Spell.

They were lured into a fake cryptocurrency scheme they believed had been endorsed by political journalist Andrew Marr. Their £100 investment quickly, but falsely, grew to £600.

Guided by scammer Giselle, they were coached to tell banks that the transfers were legitimate. Ann told the BBC: “We felt at ease with her straight away. She encouraged us to ask questions.”

Giselle told Ann they would all get rich together.

Apparent profits rose to £45,000. Scammers accessed devices and applied for loans using James’s details before the pair realised they had been scammed.

James said: “I never dreamt she would disappear from the face of the Earth and leave me with £50,000 in debt.”

The couple’s financial loss highlights the challenges posed by such scams and The Spell remains a concern for the financial industry.

Editor of Which? Money Jenny Ross said scammers prey particularly on the tired and distracted.

Campaigners say it is “crucial” new rules instructing banks to reimburse scam victims are not “watered down”.

Through our Fair Deal for Fraud Victims crusade, The Daily Express wants banks to prioritise victims, cut down complaint times and ensure all are reimbursed.

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