Brits get wise to rogue trader scams, but fall for fake invoice scam instead

31 October 2018

  • Just five per cent of Brits would fall for the traditional doorstep builder scam1
  • But more than a quarter would put themselves at risk of fake email invoice scams
  • Research shows many Brits would fail to query whether an invoice is real or fake
  • A third in the South West would fail to check versus a fifth in Northern Ireland
  • Nationwide urges people to always stop and think before paying an invoice

While most people believe they would be able to spot a rogue trader, research reveals more than a quarter of Brits would be caught out by email invoice scams due to not checking the details.

Rogue traders hoping to make a quick buck might be disappointed as new research from Nationwide Building Society shows just one in 20 people (5%) admit they would take the advice of, and pay, a builder who knocked on their door and advised them that work urgently needs to be carried out.

However, modern scammers targeting their victims with fake invoices via email are far more likely to strike it lucky, with more than a quarter (28%) of Brits admitting they could be caught out, as they would go ahead with a request for payment received by email without calling the supplier directly to check the details.

The poll of more than 2,000 people was conducted to highlight the need for greater awareness and education around invoice scams that can be the result of emails being hacked – where criminals intercept personal emails, change the account details on an invoice to their own and resend.

Fortunately, close to half of Brits (49%) would check with the supplier beforehand by phone, although younger people are, according to the research, far more likely to be at risk of getting caught out. While more than one in five (22%) of those aged 55 and above would be at risk by not checking an email invoice via a phone call to the supplier, over a third (37%) of those aged 25-34 would take the same risk.

When it comes to regional differences, those living in the South West are the most likely to be at risk, with a third (33%) admitting they would go ahead with the payment without phoning to check details with the supplier. Although a fifth (20%) of those living in Northern Ireland would take the same risk, they are the region with the lowest percentage of people likely to go ahead without making thorough checks. (Please see table in notes to editors for full details).

Stuart Skinner, Nationwide’s Director of Fraud, said: “It’s great to see that so many people are not at risk of falling for the now well-known doorstep builder scam. This shows that fraud education work is paying off. But criminals are not complacent, which is why people need to learn about new ways in which scammers are trying to get their hands on their hard-earned money.

“Scams constantly evolve and people need to understand how they could be targeted. Just because an email looks genuine, it doesn’t mean it is and just because someone isn’t physically at your doorstep, it doesn’t make the threat any less real. Our advice is to always check payment details with a supplier to make sure your money is going to the right place.”

Nationwide’s Tips:

  1. Don’t rush to get work done by someone knocking on your door - take your time and do your research and look out for neighbours who may be more likely to feel pressurised
  2. Fake invoices received by email can be very convincing – check personally using separate contact details before parting with your money
  3. Nationwide offers fraud awareness events in branches across the country – visit your local branch to find out more and if you think you have been a victim, report it to Action Fraud

Director of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said: “Fraudsters are turning away from traditional doorstep scams and have moved towards the online world to trick their victims. Fraudsters will often pose as well-known companies or people you know to trick you into parting with information and money.

“To prevent this from happening, always check the source of emails that request payment for goods before passing on any personal information. If something feels wrong, it’s usually right to question it.

“If you think you been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud.”

Research by Censuswide: total sample size was 2,025 UK adults. The survey ran from the 20 to 22 June 2018.

1 Doorstep builder scams involve criminals knocking on someone’s door unexpectedly offering their services. Fraudsters convince homeowners to pay for work that is overpriced, poor quality, not necessary or not ever carried out.

Invoice scam regional findings: Q: Imagine you have had some work done and you then receive an invoice for the correct amount by email. Which of the following would you do?

  • Go straight ahead with the payment
  • Email back to confirm
  • Call the supplier to confirm details

Regions listed in order of risk, i.e. respondents opted for either of the first two responses:

  1. South West – 33%
  2. East Midlands and South East – 32%
  3. London and East of England – 30%
  4. North East – 28%
  5. West Midlands and Yorkshire & Humberside – 27%
  6. Scotland – 25%
  7. North West – 24%
  8. Wales – 21%
  9. Northern Ireland – 20%

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

Please note: If you are a customer looking for information on our products and services, please visit the main website.