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One in six Dutch citizens falls victim to fraudsters

No less than 16% of the Dutch population became a victim of fraud in 2020. This troubling figure has emerged from the first comprehensive study of fraud victims in the Netherlands, led by Prof. Dr Marianne Junger of the University of Twente. ‘Based on the responses to the survey, we estimate the total damage to be €2.75 billion a year.’ 

In 2020, 42% of all Dutch citizens aged sixteen or over were confronted with an attempt to defraud them. This finding comes from a study funded by the Achmea Victim & Society Foundation (SASS), International Card Services (ICS), the Dutch National Police and the Dutch Banking Association (NVB). The results were presented today in the House of Representatives to Member of Parliament Anne Kuik, member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Security. 

Estimated damages of €2.75 billion

Based on the responses to the survey, the total damage has been estimated at €2.75 billion a year.[i] The losses suffered by victims are often minor, but in some cases, they can be extremely large. The same is true of the psychological impact on victims: a minority of victims suffer a great deal of distress as a result. 

Purchase fraud[ii] is the most common type of fraud, with a victim figure of 11%. Roughly 1% fall victim to other types of fraud, such as friend-in-need fraud (including WhatsApp fraud), dating fraud and spoofing (in which the fraudster takes on a different identity, such as fake helpline fraud).

Few contact the police

One striking result to emerge from the study is that victims only go to the police in 12% of cases. Fraud is also seldom reported to other parties, such as banks, credit card companies and payment services. However, this varies depending on the type of fraud and the payment method used. When confronted with spoofing for example (which includes fake bank helpline fraud), over half of the victims contacted their bank.

Young people are hit hardest

Anyone can become a victim of fraud, the research shows. Socio-demographic variables such as age and gender play only a limited role. However, contrary to popular belief, young people fall victim to fraud more often than older members of society (21.5% victims among people aged 35 and under, compared to 13.1% victims among older people). This could be because young people spend more time online. 

Fraud prevention

Impulsivity and knowledge of fraud appear to be significant predictors of victimisation. Impulsive individuals are more likely to become victims, presumably because they are quicker to make decisions (non-impulsive: 14.7% victims; impulsive: 28.6% victims). Individuals who are more knowledgeable about fraud are more resilient and less likely to fall for attempted fraud (low on knowledge: 53.3% victims; high on knowledge: 32.2% victims). ‘Our study shows that the number of victims can decrease if people are more aware of how fraudsters operate,’ Professor Junger observes. ‘Avoiding hasty decisions can also help reduce the number of victims. This could take the form of a simple double-check before making a payment. Changes to the design of some commercial platforms could improve matters too.’ 

First comprehensive victim study in the Netherlands

Around the world, fraud appears to be claiming more and more victims. While most forms of crime are declining, fraud statistics continue to show an increase. However, the visibility of fraud is limited because victims do not always report it. A victim study can offer a more complete picture of the fraud problem. Prof. Dr Marianne Junger, Prof. Dr Bernard Veldkamp and PhD student Luka Koning MSc from the University of Twente are the people behind this first comprehensive study of fraud victimisation in the Netherlands.

Research design

A representative sample of the Dutch population (obtained through the LISS panel, n = 2864) was surveyed about their experiences of fraud in 2020. The questions asked covered twelve categories of fraud.

Support for fraud victims

Victims of fraud in the Netherlands are advised to contact the Dutch national anti-fraud helpline (Fraudehelpdesk) and the organisation or platform where the fraud took place. For more information on this study, members of the press should go to utwente.nl/fraudvic

[i] The figure for total damages is based on the weighted average damages of respondents from the victim study (€189). This amount was then multiplied by the size of the Dutch population aged 16 or older.

[ii] Purchase fraud is defined as paying for a product or service that is never delivered or that otherwise turns out to be a scam: 82.2% of purchase fraud cases involve non-delivery.

drs. M.M.J. van Hillegersberg - Hofmans (Martine)
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