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New guide gives people with learning disabilities accessible scams advice

A new ‘easy read’ guide to help people with learning disabilities spot the signs of scams has been launched (Tim Goode/PA)
A new ‘easy read’ guide to help people with learning disabilities spot the signs of scams has been launched (Tim Goode/PA)

A new “easy read” guide to help people with learning disabilities spot the signs of scams has been launched.

Mencap and UK Finance’s Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign has launched the guide to give people accessible advice on crimes such as romance and impersonation scams.

Becoming a fraud victim could strip someone of crucial independence and confidence, Mencap warned.

Typically, people with a learning disability need more time to learn and process information, and they may need extra support to develop skills, complete tasks and interact with others, those behind the initiative said.

People with a learning disability may be more at risk of being targeted, potentially missing subtle warning signs of the social engineering tactics criminals use in these crimes.

These types of fraud are also more likely to involve criminals manipulating victims into making repeated payments over an extended period, leading to substantial financial loss.

Impersonation scams are one of the most common forms of authorised push payment (APP) fraud, where people are tricked into transferring money to a fraudster.

More than £76.1 million was stolen through impersonation scams in the first six months of 2023 alone. Around £43.5 million of this was criminals impersonating police or bank staff to trick victims into making payments, while £32.6 million was other forms of impersonation, such as utility companies, communications providers or government departments.

Romance scams are where criminals make people they meet – often online through social media or dating websites – believe they are in a relationship in order to convince them to make payments to them. Around £18.5 million was stolen from victims in this way in the first six months of 2023 – a 26% increase on the previous year.

Jackie O’Sullivan, acting chief executive at Mencap, said: “Many people with a learning disability successfully manage their own money, which means they maintain freedom to make choices about their own lives. The outcome, then, of being a victim of fraud could come at more than just a financial cost, potentially stripping them of crucial independence and confidence.

“Providing accessible information about potential scams is one important step to protecting people with a learning disability from fraud.”

Ben Donaldson, managing director of economic crime at UK Finance, said: “Fraud is by far the most common crime in this country, accounting for over 40% of all reported offences. The ruthless criminals responsible will try to target us all.

“Impersonation and romance scams are among the most heartless forms of fraud because they involve the callous manipulation of the victim, which can cause emotional and psychological harm.

“We want everyone to be able to keep themselves safe from crime. That’s why we have developed this guide to ensure people with a learning disability have clear, accessible advice they can use to spot the tell-tale signs of fraud and protect themselves.”

The guide can be found by visiting www.mencap.org.uk/easyread/how-protect-yourself-scams.