Three in ten Brits would fail to spot impersonation scams

8 October 2018

  • Three in ten Brits willing to move own money into a new account to ‘keep it safe’
  • Young at risk: those aged 16-24 four times more susceptible than those 55 plus
  • People in London, West Midlands, Wales and North East areas most likely to be at risk of impersonation scams
  • But education message is working, with one in three refusing to hand over money

A worrying knowledge gap has been highlighted as research reveals a large percentage of people would willingly withdraw their own money at the request of a fraudster posing as the Police.

The poll, by Nationwide Building Society, of more than 2,000 people shows that Brits are at risk of putting themselves in compromising situations due to a lack of awareness of scams and the ways in which criminals try to trick people into handing over their hard-earned money.

Nationwide invests heavily in fraud prevention measures, although education remains the single most effective tool. The Society is therefore running free fraud awareness sessions across its branches.

Although the poll shows that fraud education work is getting through to many Brits, with just over a third (34%) indicating they would not fall for the scams posed in the research, three in ten (30%) would still transfer their own money into another account ‘to keep it safe’, if requested to do so by someone they believed to be representing the Police. This is despite the fact that neither the Police nor National Crime Agency (NCA) would ever ask anyone to do this.

It appears goodwill or a sense of civic duty could prove to be the main downfall for unsuspecting victims, with 29 per cent willing to withdraw their own cash from their bank branch or building society in order to hand it over to the ‘authorities’ to check for suspect fingerprints. While the Police or NCA would never request such action, scammers posing as law enforcement sometimes claim that branch staff are engaged in illegal activity in order to dupe their victims into playing an active role in handing over their money.

In addition, more than a fifth (22%) of those surveyed would be prepared to withdraw their own money to purchase counterfeit goods from a retailer, hand the items over to the Police and then wait for a refund. Again, neither the Police or NCA would ever request a member of the public do this.


Contrary to popular belief, the research found that caution, rather than susceptibility, increases with age, as those over 55 are the least likely to fall for these impersonation scams, with more than half (52%) saying they wouldn’t be willing to part with their own cash in the ways suggested in the research. This contrasts with just 13 per cent of those aged 16-24.

In fact, this younger age group were the keenest to use their own funds to help the ‘Police’. Close to half (48%) of 16-24 year olds say they would move their own money into a new account to keep it safe if told they were personally at risk of being the victim of fraud, 39 per cent would withdraw their own cash to have it fingerprinted by Police and just under a third (31%) would purchase counterfeit goods on behalf of the ‘Police’, again with their own money.


On a regional basis the research shows that Londoners are the most at risk, with more than half (54%) willing to follow any of the requests, followed by those living in the West Midlands (52%), and those in Wales and the North East (both 49%) (see Notes to Editors for full breakdown).


The survey shows men are far more cautious than women, with more than a third (37%) not prepared to help the Police in any of the ways suggested. This compares to just 30 per cent of women who said the same.

Stuart Skinner, Nationwide’s Director of Fraud, said: “It might be surprising that many people believe it is credible that the Police would request them to use their own money to help with an investigation, but people do fall for this scam. It shows that the key to thwarting the scam artists and fraudsters is education. We’d urge people to learn as much as they can about the tricks that scammers use.

“Our branches are running fraud awareness events and anyone can go along for free to find out how to avoid becoming a victim and what they should look out for. The dates of the events vary from branch to branch, so call in to a local branch to find out more.”

NCA Director of Prosperity, Donald Toon, said: “No-one genuinely working for the NCA would ever ask a member of the public to use their own funds to help in an investigation. It’s upsetting that well-meaning people are being taken advantage of in this way, and vitally important that the public are made aware of official counter-fraud advice such as Take Five – a preventative anti-fraud campaign supported by the UK Government, NCA and law enforcement more widely, to combat scams such as this one. For further details and advice, please visit”

Director of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said: “Fraudsters will try every trick in the book to try and convince their victims to part with their money. We often see reports where fraudsters will impersonate police officers and officials. If you think you have been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud.”

Nationwide’s Fraud Tips:

  1. The Police or NCA would not ask you to use your own money to help with an investigation
  2. Never move money to a ‘safe account’ – neither the Police or your financial services provider would ask you to do this
  3. Nationwide offers free fraud awareness events in branches across the country – visit your local branch to find out more

Notes to Editors:

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

Regional breakdown:

Most at risk - regional breakdown
Most at risk of falling for impersonation scam:

1. London - 54%

2. West Midlands - 52%

3. Wales and North East - 49%

4. South East - 47%

5. North West - 45%

6. Scotland and Yorkshire & Humberside - 44%

7. East of England - 43%

8. East Midlands - 41%

9. South West - 40%

10. Northern Ireland - 39%

Full findings: Q: If you were asked to urgently support with a National Crime Agency (their role is to protect the public from the most serious threats posed by organised crime by disrupting and bringing to justice those serious and organised criminals who present the highest risk to the UK) or Police investigation – what out of the following would you be prepared to do to help if asked? (Tick all that apply):

Full details of the type of scam, location and percentage of those asked who'd be prepared to help

  • Londoners are the most willing to move some of their own cash into a new account if they believed they were at risk of fraud (35%), this compares with the least willing region to take this risk, who are the canny Scots (21%).
  • Those living in the West Midlands and Wales are the most willing to withdraw their own cash to hand it over and taken away to be fingerprinted (35%), compared with the least willing who live in the North West (25%).
  • Those living in London and the North East are the most willing to purchase counterfeit goods with their own funds and then hand them over and wait for a refund (26%), but those living in the East Midlands are the least willing to do this (14%).

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.

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