Financial Fraud: reported scams just the tip of the iceberg

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  • A fifth of the population, or 11 million people in the UK confess to being approached by a scammer
  • A further 10%, or over 5 million might have been, but are unsure at this stage whether it was a scammer they were dealing with
  • 2.8 million have unfortunately fallen victim to a financial scam since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak
  • Interestingly one in ten victims of scams were aged 18-34, only 1% were over 55
  • Coronavirus could create the ‘perfect storm’ for fraudsters as those feeling the pinch explore ways of accessing savings

Almost 3 million people in the UK have fallen for a financial scam after being approached by a fraudster since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, according to Aegon’s survey into the behaviour of savers and investors**.

Unfortunately, the indications are that this is just the tip of the iceberg as the findings build a worrying picture of how prevalent fraudulent activity is in the UK. A fifth of the population report that they have had dealings with someone trying to con them. On top of that over 5 million people across the UK have doubts about whether a past dealing was actually an attempt to scam them, showing how important it is to remain vigilant and on guard to potential scam approaches.

The figures also show that age isn’t a defence against scammers with 1 in 10 (11%), 18-34 year olds admitting to being scammed, compared to only 1% of over 55s. In many respects, younger generations are considered more tech savvy, so it might be expected to be the other way round. Of course, although baby boomers maybe seen as financially astute, it may also transpire that the over 55s have been scammed, but they’re just not aware of it yet.

As older savers, they’ve been saving for longer and are more likely to have accumulated more wealth, so hopefully it’s not a case of them having been targeted and they just haven’t discovered it yet.   

The coronavirus crisis has created a perfect storm for fraudsters as they look to exploit people’s vulnerabilities and squeeze on personal finances. There are many websites that encourage savers to access their pension, even claiming to help those under 55 years of age. Sadly, many of these services only have one purpose in mind, to part savers from their hard-earned money.

Kate Smith, head of pensions at Aegon, comments

“When you look at the figures of the number of people affected by financial fraud, it hits home how horrific the scale of the issue is. We all need to talk about this issue to make more people aware of the very real dangers of either responding to approaches or signing up to things without really understanding what is being entered into or knowing who they are dealing with.

“The coronavirus crisis lockdown measures have changed every element of our normal working, entertainment and social patterns, meaning we’re spending more time online. This unfortunately can be a big benefit to scammers.

“We also know scammers are adept at reinventing their tactics. It’s easy to think that we need to be on our guard from cold calling or phishing attempts, but mounting evidence shows scammers don’t rely on these methods alone. They can just as easily turn their hand to creating convincing websites or another online presence, which people can inadvertently fall prey to when searching online.”

Aegon’s tips to avoid scammers:

1. Pause, take your time and don’t be rushed into making a quick financial decision.

2. Never give out personal information, including your bank details.

3. Beware of websites offering to unlock your pension before age 55 or offering you high returns to change your pension arrangements. If it looks too good to be true it often is.

4. Always find out who you are dealing with by checking the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) online registers and

5. Check the FCA warning list online tool for known investment scams:

6. Get guidance or advice from a regulated adviser before changing your pension arrangements. 

7. Report any concerns to your pension provider, adviser, action Fraud on 0300123 2040 or the FCA consumer helpline on 0800 111 6768.


*UK adult population 52,673,000 (410 / 2000 * 52,673,000) = 10,797,965   ONS Population estimate mid 2019

**Research with 2,000 individuals conducted by Opinium in May 2020

Further information

Neil Cameron

PR Manager

Aegon UK 


Notes to Editors

  • In the UK, Aegon offers retirement, workplace savings and protection solutions to over three million customers. Aegon employs around 2000 people in the UK and together with a further 800 people employed by Atos, we serve the needs of our customers. More information:
  • As an international life insurance, pensions and asset management group based in The Hague, Aegon has businesses in over twenty markets in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Aegon companies employ approximately 26,000 people and have millions of customers across the globe. Further information:

Figures correct as of November 2019