Sinead Moore 20 Jan 2017 12:32pm

Fraud now most common crime in England and Wales

Fraud is now the most commonly experienced offence in the country, the annual Crime Survey for England Wales by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found, after it included cybercrime and fraud questions in the crime survey for the first time

The inclusion of fraud and computer misuse offences caused the overall estimated number of crime figures to reach 11.8 million in the year ended September 2016, up from 6.6 million the year before.

While the number of “traditional” crimes stayed relatively flat at 6.2 million, the results revealed there were over two million cases of computer misuse and 3.6 million recorded fraud attempts across England and Wales in the year ended September 2016.

Frauds referred to police increased by 3% year-on-year, while separate industry data also published by the ONS showed fraud on UK-issued cards jumped by 39% to 1.9 million. The difference indicates that the majority of frauds that take place are not reported to police.

John Flatley, crime statistics and analysis, ONS, said, “In its 35-year history the crime survey has charted changing trends in crimes experienced by the population. In the past burglary and theft of vehicles were the high volume crimes driving trends but their numbers have fallen substantially since then."

When the crime survey started, the Internet had not even been invented yet and “fraud was not considered a significant threat”, according to Flately.

“Today’s figures demonstrate how crime has changed, with fraud now the most commonly experienced offence. However, it should be emphasised that the new headline figures, including fraud and computer misuse, are not comparable with those from earlier years.”

Bernard Hogan-Howe, commissioner for the Metropolitan Police Service said with the scale of online crime and fraud just becoming apparent, “warning lights are flashing”.

Steve White, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales added that the figures “highlight the reality of the world in which we police”.

“They reflect real crimes affecting real people, all of which need investigating by an ever reducing number of police officers”.

Jeff Farrar, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for crime and incident recording chief constable, said, “The ability to commit crime online demonstrates the need for policing to adapt and transform to tackle these cyber challenges."

Last week the Home Affairs Select Committee launched an inquiry to examine how forces are responding to the evolving nature of crime, and if they are capable of doing so.

Katy Worobec, director of Financial Fraud Action UK, said, “Banks work extremely hard to protect their customers and stopped £6 in every £10 of attempted fraud in the first half of 2016.”

She added that the industry is “continually evolving its response to fraud as it develops, investing in new detection and verification tools” but raised concerns that “while the industry invests in new systems to stop the criminals, fraudsters are increasingly targeting people directly”.

Worobec warned “customers and businesses need to be alert to the threats posed by the continued rise in impersonation scams attempting to trick them out of their personal details and money”.

She encouraged people to “pause and think before they respond to any financial requests and share any personal or financial details”.

“The industry takes its responsibility to combat fraud extremely seriously, but banks cannot stop all fraud on their own. It is essential all organisations with a role to play work together to better protect individuals and companies. We are working with law enforcement and government, particularly through the Joint Fraud Taskforce.”

Earlier this week, Kroll's Global Fraud and Risk Report revealed that UK firms are the second biggest victims of fraud and cyber crime worldwide.

According to the report, 90% of UK respondents experienced a cyber incident over the last year compared to the global average of 82%.

The most common types of fraud in the UK were theft of physical assets and the misappropriation of funds, with most fraudsters coming from inside the company.

The UK was also named as the country with the second highest rate of cyber incidents, with 92% of executives saying they had experienced an attack or information loss in the last year, compared with the global average of 85%.

Virus infection and insider theft of customer or employee data were the most usual types of crime, at 33% and 27% respectively.

Colombia was the only country ahead of the UK in terms of reported fraud and cyber security incidents, with 95% of Colombian executives saying they were affected by both crimes.

Adam Rowse, head of business banking at Barclays, said, “Prevention is of upmost importance in putting a stop to this crime - companies need to consider fraud as critical to their business operation as cost or cash flow.

"We want to help businesses by providing information and guidance to keep their money safe from any attack and to fight back against the fraudsters. With the number of customers going online rapidly rising the issue of fraud prevention has never been more important.”