Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

Extent of fraud and cyber crime laid out in new statistics

Out-Law News | 24 Jul 2017 | 2:54 pm | 2 min. read

More than five million cases of fraud and computer misuse offences were recorded in England and Wales in a single year, according to new figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figures, which make up just less than half of the 11m incidents of crime recorded during the period, account for a variety of offences, from bank and credit account fraud and online shopping fraud, to the deployment of computer viruses and unauthorised accessing of personal information, the ONS said.

While nearly 5.2m incidents of fraud and computer misuse offences were recorded, the ONS suggested the actual number of cases could be higher. It said just 17% of consumers that fall victim to fraud report such incidents to the police of Action Fraud.

The ONS figures were gathered in its latest Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW). The impact of May's global ransomware attack which impacted on organisations such as the NHS was not accounted for in the statistics, which are based on interviews with crime victims conducted between April 2016 and March 2017.

According to the figures, there were an estimated 3.4m incidents of fraud reported in the year to March, with 2.5m of those cases relating to bank and credit account fraud. There were 737,000 incidents of non-investment fraud, which includes fraud related to online shopping. In 73% of fraud cases, victims either initially lose money or goods as a result of the crime.

Of the 1.8m computer misuse offences, 66% were "computer virus-related", the ONS said. The remaining incidents, of which there were just over 600,000, "related to unauthorised access to personal information", which the ONS said includes hacking.

The data on fraud and computer misuse offences are currently classed as "experimental statistics". The ONS said it will not be until January 2018 that "valid year-on-year comparisons" of crime figures in England and Wales will be able to be made, since it will only be then that "two full years of data" on the new fraud and computer misuse offences will be available to analyse.

"It is not yet possible to analyse trends in fraud from the new elements of the CSEW as we do not have two full years of data," the ONS said. "However, the available evidence from other sources suggests a general rise in the level of fraud in the last year in England and Wales."

Earlier this month, the National Audit Office (NAO) said the government-established Joint Fraud Taskforce currently has "too narrow a focus on banking" and that its membership should be expanded "to include other stakeholders, such as the retail and digital sectors" to help fight against online fraud.

At the time, Alan Sheeley of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, explained that there are options available to businesses to help them recover assets defrauded from them.

"Specialist civil fraud and asset recovery teams have the expertise and resources to increase recovery rates for the victims of online fraud, such as through obtaining worldwide freezing orders and disclosure orders which significantly improve a victims chances of tracing and recovering misappropriated monies," Sheeley said.

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