Being a victim of fraud impacts your mental health. Here's how to cope

What is cortisol balancing and can it help with mental health? (Getty Images)
What is cortisol balancing and can it help with mental health? (Getty Images)

Being a victim of fraud has implications on your finances, but new research has revealed that it could also impact your mental and physical health and wellbeing.

Anxiety, panic attacks, changes in weight and sleep problems were just some of the issues reported by victims, according to the Stop! Think Fraud campaign.

The survey, of 2,100 people who had been victims of fraud, found three in five (60%) have struggled with their mental health in the aftermath of the crime.

More than half (55%) of people whose mental health was affected said they experienced anxiety. Some of those impacted also reported dealing with depression (48%), or low self-confidence and self-esteem (51%).

Just over a quarter (26%) of fraud victims experienced physical changes as a direct result of losing money, which included losing or gaining weight, experiencing headaches and suffering from panic attacks.

Being a victim of fraud also led to sleep problems for more than two-thirds (69%) of people, with more than a fifth (21%) citing a significant impact on their sleep.

One 64-year-old fraud victim revealed the impact the events had taken on her own wellbeing.

"I think more people need to recognise just how much of a toll fraud can have on someone’s mental health," she explained.

"The stress affects all aspects of your life, and if you don’t have a good support network around you, it could easily become really overwhelming.

"To this day I still receive texts, calls and sometimes emails from people trying to steal my money. I’d like to think I’m a lot more vigilant now, but anyone could be caught out by these scams.

"My advice to anyone is do not respond to unsolicited calls, texts or emails, and keep a close eye on your bank account. If you’re unsure of something, stop, think and check before you do anything. It could save you thousands – and protect your mental health in the long run."

The constant barrage of digital life admin is taking its toll on our mental wellbeing. (Getty Images)
The constant barrage of digital life admin is taking its toll on our mental wellbeing. (Getty Images)

The link between fraud and mental health

While becoming a victim of a scam or fraud can be distressing and traumatic for anyone, for those already living with mental health issues, it could negatively impact them more deeply.

"This research demonstrates that fraud is about more than losing money – it can have a profound impact on our wellbeing," Charlene Marks, head of Mental Health UK’s mental health and money advice service explains.

"These worrying statistics also underline how money and mental health are intrinsically linked.

"In fact, we know from other studies that we have carried out that if a person is already struggling with their mental health, this can make them much more vulnerable and three times more likely to be a victim of online fraud.

"Dealing with fraud can be distressing, and it’s common that this is compounded with feelings of shame or blame," she adds. "It’s really important that people seek support for their mental health if it’s having a continued impact on their wellbeing.

"With the right support people can move forward with their lives, and for many seeking help from their GP or a registered counsellor represents a positive step forward."

The problem is, that the shame many victims experience following the fraud often stops them seeking support.

"There is a sense that they ‘should’ have known better, that they ‘could’ have spotted the signs, and as a consequence, this embarrassment often stops people from not only feeling entitled to seek support but, critically, from processing and responding to what has happened in a way that minimises the impact on their mental health," behavioural psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos explains.

"The fact is that scams like these can happen to anybody. Fraudsters and the technology they use are becoming so advanced that our ability to spot fraud and respond to it is constantly being challenged.

"It’s vital to get people not only to have a sense of entitlement about seeking support, but to equip them with the skills to stop, think twice and develop tools to respond.

"The key message here is to encourage anyone that has experienced fraud to seek support, because good effective support is out there."

Social media could be having an impact on our mental health. (Getty Images)
Social media could be having an impact on our mental health. (Getty Images)

How to look after your wellbeing if you have been a fraud victim

Research, by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute found four in 10 respondents who had been victims of online scams felt they had experienced a major negative impact on their mental health.

But there are some ways to cope if you have been a victim.

Recognise that you are not alone

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to fall victim to APP scams. "Talking about your experiences with friends and family can help alleviate feelings of guilt and encourage you to rebuild your confidence," advises Mandy Lamb, UK MD at Visa, who have recently produced a whitepaper, The Impact of APP Scams, which explores the victim experience and demonstrates the impact APP fraud can have on money management, financial confidence, and personal wellbeing.

Reach out for support and advice

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, report it. If you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, report it to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040. In Scotland, fraud should be reported to Police Scotland by calling 101.

If you have been scammed, it is not only important to report it but also to seek support for yourself, whether that is reaching out to a trustworthy person or seeking help from your GP or a counsellor.

Victim Support also offers emotional support after becoming a victim of a crime.

"If you have been affected by fraud, remember help is available," Dr Papadopoulos adds. "It is important to feel empowered to ask for help, as by calling it out, we ultimately take back control."

Additional reporting PA.

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