'I am on Universal Credit now': Victim loses £120,000 to Instagram scam

While the pandemic ruined many livelihoods, it provided a boom for criminals

A retired teacher who lost £120,000 to an Instagram scam has told ITV News she has been left claiming Universal Credit as a result of the loss.

63-year-old Teresa Jackson, from Portishead, is one of 36 million adults to have been targeted by scammers since January, according to Citizens Advice.Ms Jackson, a retired teacher, signed up to the fake investment scheme after responding to a social media advert. The post alleged that adventurer and presenter Bear Grylls had became rich by investing in Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency.

After registering her interest, Ms Jackson received a call from a man posing as a financial adviser.

Ms Jackson explains exactly how much the £120,000 she lost meant to her

"He just knew everything there was to know about Bitcoin and investments. I used to go and check everything he said - everything seemed genuine," she explained.

By the time she realised the scheme wasn't, in fact, genuine, Ms Jackson had lost £120,000 - her pension and savings.

She said: "I felt embarrassed and stupid... my family trusted me to know what I was doing".

Fortunately, Ms Jackson's bank paid her half the money back when she reported the scam to them.

They said were unable to give her the full amount, however, because she had made the decision to transfer the money herself.

"I am on Universal Credit now, simple as that," she said.

Ms Jackson admitted that she's comfortable, but said she can no longer live the life she used to lead.

Citizens Advice said more than two-thirds (68%) of people think they have been targeted by fraudsters this year so far. While over-55s, like Ms Jackson, are most likely to be targeted, those aged 34 and under are nearly five times more likely to fall victim to a scam than their older counterparts, the charity found. Younger people were most likely to be targeted by text or messaging service (61%), while those over-55 were most likely to be targeted over the phone (73%). The bulk (54%) of scam contact was about fake deliveries or parcels, but in 41% of cases someone was pretending to be from the government and 12% of scam attempts were by someone offering a fake investment or “get rich quick” scheme.

Citizens Advice said the number of scam reports to it has increased sharply.

Comparing the first five months of 2021 with the same period in 2020, there has been a 123% increase in scam reports made to the charity. In one case seen by Citizens Advice, an elderly man sent £240,000 to an account he thought belonged to his bank.

Ms Jackson explains how the scammer convinced her to give up her money

In another, a young woman got in touch when she lost £2,000 to a fake cryptocurrency company after receiving a message from a friend’s hacked social media account. And in another case, a woman from Suffolk lost £750 that she had sent to a bogus dog breeder. Citizens Advice and the Consumer Protection Partnership have launched their annual Scams Awareness campaign. Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Our research shows that when it comes to scams anyone can be targeted, and anyone can be tricked. “It’s more important than ever we all do our bit to report scams when we see them to help protect ourselves and others. By learning how scammers operate, and helping each other understand what to look out for, we can all work together to stop fraudsters in their tracks.“ Louise Baxter, head of the National Trading Standards Scams Team, said: “Just being targeted by scams has been shown to damage people’s wellbeing. “We urge people to protect themselves and their loved ones from scams by completing our free Friends Against Scams awareness training at www.FriendsAgainstScams.org.uk.” Opinium surveyed more than 2,000 people across the UK, among whom 68% said they had been contacted by someone that they think was trying to scam them.