Former Police Chief and Line of Duty Police Advisor, Tony Callaghan

Socially-distant scammers: Brits urged to be vigilant as only a third alert to scams on tech platforms

20 May 2021
  • Majority of Brits (84 per cent) have noticed a rise in suspicious communication in the past year, with nearly half (45 per cent) of scams occurring on tech platforms
  • Worryingly, whilst clearly on the rise, just one in three Brits (38 per cent) consider themselves alert to the threat of being scammed while on social media sites
  • Tony Callaghan, Police Advisor to TV drama Line of Duty, provides his top tips for thinking like a detective to interrogate suspicious information and identify untrustworthy people

Despite 84 per cent of Brits noticing an increase in suspicious or scam-related communications in the past year, only a third (38 per cent) are alert to the possibility of being targeted by a scam when scrolling through social media, new research by Barclays1 reveals.

The poll comes as data from Barclays shows nearly half (45 per cent) of scams in January to March 2021 originated on tech platforms (social media, auction/purchase websites or apps and dating sites)2.

While all are potential avenues for scammers to strike, the research found that people are far more alert to the possibility of being scammed when answering their mobile phone (69 per cent) or landline (66 per cent), or when reading an email (73 per cent) or text message (69 per cent).

The data also shows that while scams that originate on tech platforms are high in volume, they tend to be lower value, making up just 20 per cent of the total value of scam claims, showing that customers should always be on the alert, even on smaller purchases.

To help people recognise suspicious activity in everyday life, Barclays has partnered with former Police Chief and Line of Duty Police Advisor, Tony Callaghan, to share his advice on how to interrogate information to help consumers spot fraudsters before they fall victim to a scam:

“After decades of dealing with criminals, I have developed a mindset that makes me suspicious of everything, but even I’m not immune to being caught out. There are certain situations where it’s easy to let your guard down, and this, unfortunately provides an opportunity for scammers.”

With 84 per cent of people believing they have been targeted directly by scams in the past year, Barclays is urging everyone to do their research before making purchases or divulging any personal details.

People are more likely to carry out a thorough background check on someone before they fix something at their house (31 per cent), than they are when buying something on social media (26 per cent) or via an online marketplaces (22 per cent).

And while the majority of people (65 per cent) feel confident in their ability to tell when someone is lying in everyday life, the tell-tale signs that people identified – such as not making eye contact (76 per cent), fidgeting (51 per cent) and shuffling their feet (34 per cent) – are less obvious on tech platforms or when meeting virtually.

In his role as Police Advisor to Line of Duty, Callaghan helped craft a script around a character that left everyone fooled. As an ex-Police Officer, he knows all the tricks in the book when it comes to identifying - and putting a stop to - criminal behaviour. He adds:

“In the Force, we undergo years of training to recognise the truth from a lie – but even with our specialist skillset, it’s not easy. As Line of Duty showed, it takes a whole team to catch sophisticated criminals.

“My top tips are:
1. Question everything: one of the key skills I’ve learnt is to always ask questions - even if you think it's a simple request or transaction, by ensuring you have double checked all the details, it will help you keep safe
2. Work in a team: if you’re ever suspicious that something is not quite as it seems, you should always call for backup, whether from a family member, friend or colleague
3. Take your time: as a police officer there are times where you have to make a decision in a nano-second, but generally you don’t have to make a decision instantly. The same goes in everyday life.
4. And finally, in the force we know to trust our guts: if something seems too good to be true, then it almost always is.”

Jim Winters, Head of Fraud at Barclays says: “Fraudsters don’t discriminate when it comes to who they target, and are becoming ever more sophisticated in their tactics, requiring us all to be on high alert in order not to get caught out.

“We’ve seen a rise in fraud and scams driven by fake SMS messages or adverts on social media over the past year – which means it’s more important than ever to be vigilant when scrolling through social media and not clinking on any link in a text message. In fact, young people are increasingly falling victim, due to the amount of time spent on social media platforms, giving scammers a captive audience.”

For more information, please visit: www.barclays.co.uk/digisafe.
Follow the Barclays UK social media pages on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for up-to-date tips and advice – all of our genuine pages have a blue tick.


Notes to Editors
1Mortar Research study of 2,000 participants, May 2021
2Barclays data on reported scams is from January 1st 2021 – March 31st 2021.