As part of Fraud Awareness Week 2023, we’re sharing a case study of Alison’s* experience as a victim of fraud: how she was impacted and what support she received to move forward. Alison’s story, unfortunately, is not unique. With fraud now established as the UK’s most common crime type, the need to provide holistic and victim-centred support to those it impacts is paramount.
At Catch22, our Victim Services support victims of fraud to cope, recover and avoid revictimisation, as well as advocate on their behalf to claim reimbursement. However, as new and more intelligent technologies develop, vulnerability to fraud is ever-expanding. We believe that, for there to be better outcomes for victims of fraud and reduced revictimisation, the Government must drive an increase in police investigations and prosecution of fraudsters.
There are just 2.1 police officers and staff primarily focused on economic crime, for every 1,000 recorded fraud instances in England and Wales – leaving victims dissatisfied and perpetrators free to re-offend. Victims of fraud and scams are being let down by the current system, which too often dismisses their cases and fails to provide wrap-around support. Victims just like Alison must be able to trust that their case will be taken seriously, and that it won’t happen again.
Alison*, an elderly female, was befriended online by a male who went on to commit a series of fraud crimes against her, amounting to £23,000 of Alison’s savings being taken.
Once Alison had realised what had happened, she reported the incident to the police and reached out to her bank immediately. However, despite following all the right steps, she was told by her bank that they were unable to refund her money because it was “willingly” transferred.
Without a refund on her lost savings, Alison was left feeling hopeless and low. She was very shaken by the incident and turned to drink as a coping mechanism, which pushed her to become increasingly withdrawn from her friends.
After Alison reported the fraud to the police, they referred her to Victim First. A home visit was organised in which initial goals were set to help Alison begin reclaiming agency and confidence. One of Catch22’s Victim First caseworkers worked with Alison, encouraging her to set small goals to reduce the amount she was drinking and begin reaching out to her friends again.
Alison was also supported by Victim First to once again get in touch with her bank. Alison’s caseworker informed her of her rights as a victim and the bank’s responsibility under the “quince care duty”: a duty that requires banks to refrain from executing a payment instruction where there are reasonable grounds for believing that the instruction is given dishonestly or that it is an attempt to misappropriate customer funds.
With these tools, Alison was able to confidently re-approach her bank and ensure they were taking responsibility for the part they played in the incident. Though the bank had originally refused a reimbursement because Alison “willingly” sent the money – after reviewing her case they acknowledged having not prompted her with appropriate questions and barriers on why she was repeatedly withdrawing or sending money, and having failed to send any fraud warnings. As a result, the bank agreed to refund Alison’s lost money which, as well as being a huge relief financially, was incredibly positive for Alison’s self-esteem and confidence, which had been damaged in the weeks spent trying to get the police and her bank to progress her case. Advocacy was also provided when liaising with the police to ensure the victims’ rights were being upheld and the case was being progressed.
After the home visit, Alison felt more empowered to take back control of her situation. She began reducing her alcohol consumption significantly and, with encouragement from her caseworker, Alison also began meeting up with friends and had the confidence to socialise again.
Alison is now in a much better place. She reported that she felt supported throughout the process and is currently engaging with Victim First’s Restorative Justice offer to see if there is any scope to repair the harm caused by this incident with the offender.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.