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Crime survey

England and Wales had an estimated a 36pc increase in fraud for the year to September 2021, compared with the year to September 2019, according to the telephone-operated Crime Survey for England and Wales by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The statisticians suggest that the increases in “advance fee fraud”, and “consumer and retail fraud” may indicate fraudsters taking advantage of behaviour changes related to the coronavirus pandemic, such as more online shopping.

As a sign of how much crime goes unreported to and unrecorded by the police, the police recorded 5.8 million crimes in England and Wales in the year to September 2021; a 2pc increase compared with the previous year. However, the number of offences fell 1pc (to 4.9 million) when excluding fraud and computer misuse. Offences of robbery fell by 20pc to 16,601; and offences involving firearms fell by 9pc to 5,653 offences in the year to September 2021 compared with 6,244 offences in the previous year.

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At the counter-fraud trade body Cifas, CEO Mike Haley, pictured, said: “The latest crime statistics shine a harsh light on the gap between the vast scale of fraud and the tiny proportion of police funding dedicated to fraud. It is scandalous that fraud accounts for almost half of all crime, and continues to grow, but just 2pc of all police funding is allocated to tackling it.

“Too often other crime types are used as an excuse for not better resourcing the fight against fraud, when in fact fraud both funds and enables other serious and organised crime types, from people trafficking and human slavery, to terrorism. Indeed, little organised criminality could be carried out without identity fraud to provide access to fraudulent funds, accounts and documentation.

“Fraud causes grave harm, represents a national security risk and must be prioritised accordingly by government and policing. These statistics are a timely reminder, at a time of focus on COVID-19 scheme losses, that we can ill afford to simply write-off fraud.

“Government needs to urgently bring forward the Economic Crime Reform Bill, increase investment in policing fraud, and develop a dedicated national strategy to tackle fraud.”

Particularly concerning, said Josh Gunnell, head of fraud and ID pre-sales at TransUnion in the UK, is the rise in digital fraud within financial services, with the trade association UK Finance reporting an increase of 53 per cent in remote banking fraud for the year to September 2021 and financial investment fraud rising 42pc for the same period, according to the police reporting line Action Fraud.

“More widely, advanced fee fraud, including the common delivery service scams where victims transferred funds to fraudsters, saw a sizable increase of 18% – from 43,555 to 51,407 offences – in the last year.

“Going into another year where consumers will face a barrage of threats online, it’s more important than ever for businesses to take a rigorous approach to fraud prevention and identify verification. By implementing proactive and predictive solutions that make data-led decisions on potentially fraudulent activity, businesses can help deliver safe experiences, without compromising on the customer journey.

“It’s positive to hear that the UK government is currently drafting its landmark Online Safety Bill. With pressure from lobbyists, it seems a real possibility that new anti-fraud legislation will help tackle the scourge of push payment scams that are served to consumers via paid-for advertising. This could be a major step towards breaking the trend of increased fraudulent activity online alongside progress being made on the UK’s digital identities trust framework.”


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