Giving people with mental health problems equal access to vital services

Merlyn Holkar, Senior Research Officer, and Chris Lees, Research Officer

Caught in the web

Online scams and mental health

9 December 2020

The third report in our online harms series highlights that people experiencing mental health problems are particularly vulnerable to online scams. But a lack of consumer protections from the government puts people at risk of crippling financial harm and distress. The report outlines that: 

  • People with mental health problems are three times more likely to have fallen victim to an online scam. In total, around 4.6 million people with mental health problems have been victims of scams.
  • Common symptoms of mental health problems make it harder to identify and avoid online scams —  leaving people especially vulnerable to fraudsters. 
  • Lockdown has accelerated these problems with more people staying at home, spending time online and struggling with their mental health. As a result, nearly two million UK adults fell victim to scams in the six months after lockdown began.

Key recommendations: 

  • The government should include online scams in its upcoming Online Harms bill, and give the new online harms regulator the powers to clamp down on online scammers. 
  • That includes requiring online platforms like Facebook and Google to take greater action to prevent scams appearing on their sites.
  • We also want these online platforms to make it easier for people to report scams, and to act quicker when they are reported.

Watch our Research Officer Chris Lees summarise the report’s key findings: