2021 Fraud Report

As a result of the pandemic, we’ve seen an evolution in fraud attacks over the past two years, as criminals explore new and sophisticated ways to target potential victims. Our personal finance experts have dug into the latest police figures to reveal the full impact of fraud and cybercrime in 2021.

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Our 2021 Fraud and Cybercrime Report reveals a whopping £2.4billion was stolen from Brits, 174% more than the previous year.

Fraud and cybercrime have rocketed over the past year as crime reports soared from 35,739 reported cases in 2020 to 445,357 in 2021. Below, we show how victims have been impacted by fraud and cybercrime across the UK. 

One of the benefits of using a credit card is that you're protecting yourself against fraud. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act protects you when spending on your credit card but only applies to credit card transactions where the price of what you’re buying is between £100 and £30,000.

2021’s Quarterly fraud and cybercrime figures

In the fourth quarter of 2021, there were a total of 95,124 reported cases of fraud and cybercrime in the UK, resulting in £635.3 million in losses overall - that works out as nearly £7,000 lost per victim on average. 

There were 137,695 crimes reported between January 2021 to March 2021 with losses totalling £625.6 million. In Q2 the number of crimes fell 15% (116,042 reported crimes) with reported losses falling by £75.8 million. Q3 had a 19% decrease in reports however, losses were greater (£585 million) and Q4 saw the greatest amount lost at £653.3 million reported in the final three months of the year. 

What were the UK’s most common cases of fraud and cybercrime in 2021?

Crime categoryTotal number of reportsTotal reported lossesAverage loss per victim
Cheque, Plastic Card and Online Bank Accounts26,485£204,300,000£7,714
Computer Software Service Fraud15,754£23,600,000£1,498
Computer Virus \ Malware \ Spyware7,156£1,203,300£168
Dating Scams8,989£97,200,000£10,813
Door to Door Sales and Bogus Tradesman5228£25,800,000£4,935
Hacking - Personal5325£516,900£97
Hacking - Social Media and Email13,522£7,831,500£579
Online Shopping and Auctions88,677£71,500,000£806
Other Advance Fee Frauds31,031£41,200,000£1,328
Other Cosumer Non Investment Frauds26,269£153,000,000£5,824
Other Financial Investment14,195£394,100,000£27,763
Retail Fraud3459£13,900,000£4,019
Share Sales or Boiler Room Fraud6,520£160,000,000£24,540

There was a significant increase in the number of consumers shopping online in 2021, with the proportion of retail sales happening over the internet hitting 26.6% in December 2021 - substantially higher than the 19.7% figure from in February 2020, before the fist UK wide lockdown. 

Along with this increase, we’ve also seen a rise in online fraudulent activity. In total for 2021, there were a whopping 88,677 reported online shopping fraud cases, with losses equally £71.5 million. 

The peak of the pandemic also saw the most online shopping fraud cases reported - with 28,173 cases between January and March. This compares to a figure 30% lower in Q4. 

Financial investment fraud was the most financially damaging category in 2021, with £394.1 million reported losses. Cheque, plastic card and online Bank accounts also hit victims financially with £204.3 million reported in losses. Retail fraud attacks have dropped since the beginning of the year, as lockdowns restricted high street spending. In total last year, there were just 3,459 reported retail fraud attacks with £13.9 million reported lost.

Who has been the most impacted by fraud and cybercrime?

Those aged 20-29 were targeted the most by fraud and cybercrimes in 2021. This was followed by those aged 30-39. Individuals younger than 70 were largely victims of online shopping and auctions fraud.

Those aged 70+ more commonly experienced crimes in the categories of computer software fraud and advance fee fraud. With the average victim of computer software fraud losing £1,498 and the average victim of advance fee fraud losing £1,328. 

Where crimes increased the most in 2021

The report also looked into police force figures to understand which parts of the UK have experienced a significant change in crime figures. Across the 49 policing areas analysed, those living in Guernsey and Jersey had the highest financial loss on average per victim at £17,647 and £15,882. Victims in the North Wales, Cleveland and Dyfed-Powys had the lowest average loss per victim at under £2.5k.

How to protect yourself from fraud and cybercrime 

Our analysis reveals that anyone can find themselves as a victim of fraud as criminals explore new and sophisticated ways to steal our data. Here are some tips to help you keep yourself protected and your data safe:

  • Don’t give away any personal information

Before providing any personal details - including your name, address, bank details or phone number - ask the organisation or person requesting this information to verify their credentials.

  • Keep your tech devices up to date  

Updating your phone or laptop's operating system can take a long time. But they improve functionality and normally have security updates. It's best to update your devices as soon as new versions are released. As well as keeping up to date antivirus software on your devices, delete any unused apps as these may retain your personal information.

  • Layering your protection 

When online shopping, using a credit card rather than a debit card provides extra protection. If someone does get their hands on your details, they can't bleed your current account dry or drain any associated savings either.

You'll also benefit from Section 75 protection on purchases over £100, so you'll get your money back if something goes wrong with your purchase.

  • Be on the lookout for phishing scams 

Phishing scams are an easy way for fraudsters to steal your banking details, personal information or download a virus onto your computer. Typically phishing crime is through scam emails, but you may also get scam text messages, WhatsApp messages or phone calls.

To stay safe online, it's imperative that you're on guard against phishing scams and don't take the bait. If you’re not sure whether a message is genuine or not contact the organisation yourself and verify their details. If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, check out our guide and follow our simple steps to stop fraudsters in their tracks. 

Methodology and sources

Money.co.uk analysed fraud and cyber crimes reported to Action Fraud. Data was taken from the interactive dashboard and filtered according to the dates specified within the report. Data correct as of 31st January 2022.

About James Andrews 

James is our senior personal finance editor and has spent the past 15 years writing and editing personal finance news. He has previously written for ReachPLC, was money editor of Mirror Online and Yahoo Finance UK, and has recently been quoted in City AM, Liverpool Echo and Daily Record as well as featured on national radio shows TalkRadio and the BBC

View James Andrews’ full biography here or visit the money.co.uk press centre for our latest news.

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About James Andrews

James has spent the past 15 years writing and editing personal finance news, specialising in consumer rights, pensions, insurance, property and investments - picking up a series of awards for his journalism along the way.

View James Andrews's full biography here or visit the money.co.uk press centre for our latest news.