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European Online Fraud: Three Big Areas of Concerns

Online and offline scammers have hit millions of European consumers with sophisticated fraud tricker — particularly monetary fraud, identity theft and buying scams.

Roughly 20 percent of European consumers have experienced so-called “invisible crimes,” particularly identity theft, contributing to the worldwide spread of financial swindles and accompanying losses, a large survey by the European Union’s European Commission, entitled Survey on Scams and Fraud Experienced by Consumers, found. Some 56 percent of European consumers have experienced at least one type of fraud in the last two years.

On average, Europeans experienced 1.3 cases of scams and fraud over the last two years. Roughly one-third incurred two or more types of scams and fraud. Exposure to fraud and scams varied substantially across European Union’s 28-member states, ranging from 69 percent in Denmark to 17 percent in Bulgaria.

Financial scams have hit Europeans more frequently than any other type of fraud in the past two years. According to the study, 39 percent of Europeans had been victimized by monetary stings. Identity theft ranked second, with a 33 percent share of all fraud attacks. And, another 23 percent of consumers reported buying scams.

Consumers can be targeted while shopping online, on social media, via telephone, text messages, e-mails or face-to-face. Nearly half of identity theft attacks in European countries were delivered using email, the report said. Another 39 percent of scam artists used the phone to attack their victims. Online ads (5 percent), text messages (4 percent) and social media platforms (3 percent) followed as tactics to trick people into handing over their confidential information to crooks.

Of note, roughly one in four Europeans hit by any type of financial fraud suffered a loss, with the total stolen across Europe amounting to more than $25 billion (€24 billion) in the last two years. Of those who experienced financial harm, some suffered losses of more than $500.

Despite the high numbers of Europeans suffering financial loss in a scam, many are reluctant to report an incident to official authorities. Only 21 percent of those who experienced a scam or fraud reported it to an official authority, the study found. The figure skewed higher when a person was duped out of more than $50. People are most likely to report an incident to the bank/credit card company (7 percent) and the police (6 percent) rather than consumer associations, the results showed.

When comparing fraud in Eastern Europe with Western Europe, as a region the latter was more likely to have experienced scams or fraud in the past two years. Exposure to scams and fraud were highest in Denmark (69 percent), Ireland (68 percent) and the United Kingdom (67 percent). By contrast, exposure was much less in Bulgaria (17 percent), Cyprus (26 percent) and Hungary (28 percent).

Western Europeans were more likely to have experienced identity fraud in the last two years, with the U.K. at 53 percent of respondents leading Ireland, Denmark, The Netherlands and France, which followed with 50 percent, 45 percent, 42 percent and 39 percent, respectively. By comparison, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Estonia had the lowest identity theft rate, all with less than 10 percent of respondents hit by that fraud tactic.

The survey was conducted in the EU member states, Iceland and Norway. In total 28,239 interviews were completed across all countries, with 26,735 compiled in the EU.

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