Fraud Becomes The Most Common Crime

A total of 3.8 million frauds and two million computer misuse offences were recorded by the Crime Survey for England and Wales.

Fraud is now the most common type of crime in England and Wales, almost equalling the combined total of all other offences.

In the first set of official figures showing the true scale of the problem, the Office for National Statistics has revealed there were almost six million incidents of fraud and computer misuse in England and Wales in the year to the end of March.

A total of 3.8 million frauds were recorded by the Crime Survey for England and Wales and two million computer misuse offences, such as computer hacking, were reported.

Questions on fraud and cyber-crime were added to the survey from October last year and show around one in 10 people are likely to have been the victim of fraud.

The fraud numbers are separate from the headline estimated figure of 6.3 million crimes perpetrated against adults in the year to March, a 6% fall on the previous 12 months.

This suggests the overall crime rate could be almost double the level previously reported.

John Flatley, of the ONS, said: “This is the first time we have published official estimates of fraud and computer misuse from our victimisation survey.

“Together, these offences are similar in magnitude to the existing headline figures covering all other crime survey offences.

“However, it would be wrong to conclude that actual crime levels have doubled, since the survey previously did not cover these offences.”

Of the 3.8m fraud cases recorded in the crime survey, around half were cyber-related.

City of London Police Commander Chris Greany told Sky News: “I think the figures show fraud and cyber-crime is a serious matter we need to look at. The crime survey as a sample survey showed it was very high and this just goes to support that, so there is lots more work to do for the whole of law enforcement and society to protect themselves from fraud and cyber-related crime.

“You can target 1,000 people within 10 minutes with one spam email across the world. The internet allows a much greater speed of access for criminals to target their victims.”

Statisticians said the survey indicates that fraud is now the most common crime likely to be experienced by the general population, with people 20 times more likely to be a victim of fraud than robbery, and 10 times more likely to suffer fraud than theft.

Of the two million computer misuse incidents, the majority involved a computer or internet-enabled device being infected with a virus, accounting for 1.4 million incidents.

The remaining 0.6 million crimes related to “unauthorised access to personal information” such as hacking.

The most common types of fraud experienced were bank and credit account fraud, with 2.5 million incidents, followed by “non-investment” fraud – such as scams related to online shopping.

Policing minister Brandon Lewis said: “As crime falls, we know that it is also changing. Fraud and cyber offences are not a new threat and the Government has been working to get ahead of the game, committing to spend £1.9bn on cyber security and cyber crime over the next five years.

“We have also established the Joint Fraud Taskforce, bringing together law enforcement and the banking sector, while Action Fraud, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and the National Crime Agency are working to improve our response.

“We welcome today’s experimental ONS figures on fraud and cyber-crime – offences which we have always known were happening but were previously unable to quantify. Having an accurate national picture will be crucial to inform future action.”

Overall, the crime survey showed a 6% fall in the number of crimes compared to last year, but figures recorded by police showed a rise of 8% which statisticians believe can be partly explained by better police recording methods.

The number of homicides – cases of murder, manslaughter and infanticide – went up 34 to 571, one of the highest homicide levels recorded for over five years.


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