Fraud offences have risen by 25% over the last two years, totalling 4.5 million offences, reveals ONS study
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that fraud and computer misuse offences have risen considerably since 2020, driven largely by ‘advance fee’ and ‘consumer and retail’ fraud.
Overall fraud offences increased by 25% from 3.8m offences in 2020 (£1.26bn) to 4.5m offences in 2022, with a large proportion being cyber-related.
However, bank and credit account fraud was the most common fraud, representing 73% of total instances of fraud.
Unauthorised financial fraud losses totalled £730.4m in 2021, a decrease of 7% compared to 2020.
Advance fee fraud, which includes the transfer of money, wealth, or gifts, averaged 73% and consumer and retail fraud 46%.
Cyber-related fraud incidents increased from 53% in March 2020 to 61% in 2022, indicating that fraudsters took advantage of behavioural changes related to the Covid-19 pandemic, likely related to an increase in online shopping.
Computer misuse rose by 89% to 1.6m offences, caused by a surge in fraudsters accessing personal information.
Phishing was one of the main methods used by fraudsters, particularly in exploiting the rising cost of living.
The Crime Survey for England and Wales found that around 50% of respondents received an email, text, or social media message related to delivery companies (54%), banks, building societies or financial institutions (32%), and e-commerce companies (29%).
Around 3% replied or clicked on a link in the message, and 11% of those that clicked on a link provided personal information.
Myron Jobson, senior personal finance analyst, Interactive Investor, said: ‘Fraudsters have continued to wreak havoc since financial scams mushroomed at the height of the pandemic. Fraud offences are up 25% to 4.5 million offences in the year ending March 2022, compared with the year ending March 2020.
‘Scammers have taken advantage of consumers’ fears and shrouding their nefarious schemes among correspondence by the government and legitimate organisations relating to coronavirus measures. The worry is history repeating itself amid the biggest fall in living standards in generations.’
The cost-of-living crisis has also played a factor in phishing related fraud, with messages including promises of energy and council tax rebates, alongside encouraging people to apply for cost-of-living payments.
Jobson added: ‘Fraudsters are trying to take advantage of people struggling as prices soar. There have been countless reports of criminals sending texts, claiming to be from the government or Ofgem given the cost-of-living payments are due to be applied to energy bill accounts.
‘We often overestimate our ability to spot a financial scam when, in reality, even those who consider themselves financially savvy aren’t immune to increasingly sophisticated scams. Falling victim to fraud can lead to financial and emotional harm, with people who can often least afford it losing money.’
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) issued an announcement about the warnings of scammers attempting to target cost of living payments.
Adults aged between 25 and 44 were 58% more likely to receive a phishing message than other age groups.
Those in employment were more likely to receive a phishing message (56%) than those who were unemployed (39%).