The online fraud report

Cybercrime can take a number of different forms, from identity theft to scam products bought online. But no matter what type of fraud it is, there’s often a far-reaching impact, with victims suffering emotional effects as well as experiencing financial loss. 
According to Action Fraud, 2019-2020 saw losses of £5.4 million due to cybercrime across the UK, showing just how vulnerable we can be.  
So, how prevalent is online fraud and what can you do to protect yourself from fraudsters? We used government data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), including the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), to get a better look at online fraud. 

The prevalence of online fraud 

According to Action Fraud, in the year ending September 2020, 352,132 fraud offences against people living in England or Wales were recorded. This is an increase of 6% compared with the previous year, which begs the question: did the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns bring out more fraudsters? Or are people more susceptible to these crimes with more time spent at home and online? 

How cybercrime happens 

With so many different types of online fraud, there are many ways in which a person can be vulnerable.  
Data from the CSEW shows that in crimes where money was given, sent, or transferred from the victim to the fraudster, the majority happened after the victim responded to fraudulent communication – 68% of victims experienced fraud this way, compared with 32% who hadn’t responded to fraudulent communication. 
When it comes to financial loss, there was a fairly even split between those who sent money in response to communication (47%) and those who didn’t (53%). Money was taken in different ways, with 66% of victims receiving requests for payments, like bank transfers, sending money online, or sending cash. Just 5% reported having payments taken from their accounts, like direct debits, standing orders, and BACS and CHAPS payments. 
Credit card fraud 
22% of people with credit cards who responded to a survey in October 2020 have experienced fraud. A quarter of them (25%) believe it happened when making a payment online, and 2% from getting a call from fraudsters.  
Money was stolen in 46% of cases – for many, a significant amount. Of those who had money stolen, 19% lost between £251-£500, but the mean amount was £667.01. And this was considerably higher for the 45-54 age group who lost a mean amount of £1,312.05.  
Viruses are often used to attack tech and gadgets. They can range from simply being a nuisance by slowing down your device or corrupting files, to malware that can steal personal information like online banking details. 
While any online device can fall victim to cyber-attacks, laptops are most commonly infected with viruses. They account for 53% of virus reports, followed by 32% from desktop computers, 8% from mobile phones, 4% from handheld computers, and 3% from other devices. 

More often than not, viruses come from opening an email, attachment or web link. 

Most users (52%) became aware of a virus when their device started performing badly or stopped working altogether. This compares with 24% who started to get pop-ups appearing on the screen that could not be removed. Just 10% of these were first detected by antivirus software after the device was infected. 
The effects of viruses ranged from causing technical difficulties to demands for money. 

Who are the online fraudsters? 

With online fraud there’s usually no in-person contact with the victim, and the fraudster doesn’t need to be near the victim, so the crime can be committed from anywhere in the world.  
In fact, in the vast majority of cases, the fraudster and the victim are strangers. Figures from the period April 2019 to March 2020 show that in 83% of cyber fraud cases, the victim didn’t know the offender, compared to 9% of cases where the offender was known well to the victim, and 8% of cases where the offender was known by sight or to speak to.

The impact of online fraud 

The impact of being a victim of online fraud can be far-reaching, with a variety of emotional consequences. Three-quarters (75%) of online fraud victims who were surveyed for the CSEW said they were emotionally affected by the crime, with 71% of feeling annoyed and 52% feeling angry. 
Of course, the impact of online fraud isn’t just emotional, but can be financial as well: 70.7% of total fraud cases between April 2019 and March 2020 resulted in a financial loss, with the median amount lost being £130. 
The most common amount lost was between £100 and £249, with a small percentage of frauds resulting in a loss of £40,000 and over. 

Where does online fraud happen? 

Anyone can be targeted by online fraudsters. But there do seem to be some regions where more people fall victim to fraud. London has the highest number of fraud victims, followed by the South East and North West. The North East, on the other hand, has the lowest number of online fraud offences. 
One of the most likely explanations for this is access to the internet and online devices in these areas. As London is a hub for businesses, there are likely to be far more online devices there than in other parts of the country. 

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