The Quarterly Fraud Report from the personal finance experts at Money.co.uk analyses police figures to reveal where in the UK has seen the biggest rise in fraud and cybercrime.
Life under lockdown has forced more people to shop online than ever before. In fact, in 2020, online shopping sales increased by 46%, the largest increase in more than a decade.
As a result, there has been a sharp rise in fraudulent activity, with a loss of more than £1 billion during the first half of 2021.
In the second quarter of 2021, there were 81,018 cases of fraud and cyber crime, resulting in a reported £382.3 million lost to criminals. In comparison, there were 137,695 crimes between January-March 2021 at a cost of £625.6 million.
The report reveals that on average, each victim of fraud and cyber crime lost £4,719 between April-June 2021.
With non-essential retail closed, consumers took to online shopping at the start of the year. As a result, the proportion of online spending soared to 35.2% in January 2021. This was the highest amount on record.
In the first half of 2020, online shopping fraud reached 40,900 cases. Contrastingly, there have been 43,041 reports of online shopping fraud in the first half of 2021, the highest in all fraud and cyber crime categories.
Of the most common cases of fraud, financial investment fraud has cost victims the most per crime case. There were 2,544 reports, seeing to £71.2 million lost. On average, each victim lost £27,987.
Those aged 30-39 reported the most fraud and cyber crimes in Q2 of 2021. This was followed by people aged from 20-29. Individuals younger than 70 were largely victims of online shopping and auctions fraud.
Those who are older more commonly experienced crimes in the categories of computer software fraud and advance fee frauds. Sadly, such crimes cost victims more than those who have experienced shopping and auctions fraud.
The report also looked specifically into police force figures, to understand which parts of the UK have experience the highest rise in crimes. Residents in the Gloucestershire policing region, have seen crime increase at the highest rate (+81%).
Police force areas including Norfolk, North Wales, Avon and Somerset also had some of the highest increases in fraud and cyber crime related reports.
The report also looked into police force figures to understand which parts of the UK have experienced a significant change in crime figures. Residents in the Scottish and Gloucestershire policing region have seen crime decrease at the highest rate.
Although crime fell in Q2 2021 across the country, police forces in the City of London, Jersey, Cleveland, Leicestershire and Gwent were below the average 40% across the UK (5%, 8%, 36%, 37% and 39%).
James Andrews, personal finance expert at money.co.uk, said: “Brits have lost more than a billion pounds as a result of fraudulent and cyber crimes, showing the extent fraudsters have taken advantage of online shoppers during the national lockdown.
“But it’s encouraging to see that cases have decreased significantly in the second quarter of the year, as life started heading back towards normality. Still, with millions of pounds lost, it’s vital that individuals are aware of what they should be doing to protect themselves against fraudsters.
“Using a credit card to pay for purchases, will give you extra protection when shopping online. If you pay for even part of an item costing between £100 and £30,000 using your credit card, then you get extra protection from your card provider under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
“This allows you to claim a refund from your credit card provider if the seller can’t be contacted or rejects that they have done anything wrong.
“Making sure you have up to date antivirus software on your computer, phone and tablet can also help protect yourself from cyber attacks. Finally, as a rule of thumb, banks and other official bodies will never request details such as credit card numbers or other personal information over the phone or email.
“If you do find yourself in a position where you have unexpectedly lost money, it is important that your bank is made aware of this as soon as possible.”
It is easy to miss even the smallest details when shopping online, but simply checking a site URL can save shoppers from scams. Fake or spammy sites attempt to look as convincing as possible to seem similar to a website that you may often use. Such methods include replacing a letter with a close looking one or missing out a letter that may be hard to spot.
Shoppers should also watch out for websites that are represented through ‘.net’ or ‘.org’. These aren’t usually used for online shopping- ‘.com’ or ‘.co.uk’ are much more common.
While there are often great opportunities for discounts online, some product descriptions can be misleading or very different from what is advertised. If you are purchasing from a website as opposed to a third-party site, browse around to discover if the site is genuine. Usually, websites with counterfeit products will look less professional, with poor quality and unoriginal photos.
Additionally, pay attention to how the site is written. If you see lots of errors, such as spelling or grammatical, it’s likely it’s been put together in a hurry by someone looking to make a quick buck.
Most legitimate online retailers should allow you to pay by debit or credit card. You may also be offered the ability to pay using a known, reliable online method like PayPal. PayPal can be a good option as scammers will not be able to get hold of your bank details. Never pay by bank transfer when spending online, and especially not into someone's bitcoin or other cryptocurrency wallet, and check out the returns policy as well.
A quick and simple way to check you are browsing on a safe site is to look next to the URL. Make sure you are using an https:// or secure server internet connection. If the website has a padlock next to it, the website is usually secure. However, there are occasions where spammers buy a padlock for their site, so ensure you check out other elements of the website too.
Protect your purchases
If you pay by credit card when shopping online, you have extra protection for items costing between £100 and £30,000, under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This means you can speak to your credit card company about getting a refund if you run into a problem with your purchase that has not been dealt with well by the retailer.
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If you paid for your purchases using a debit card and then encounter problems, you might also be able to get help from your current account provider. You can do this by making a Chargeback claim. Policies such as the chargeback scheme, means you are covered if a purchase is in bad condition when it arrives, or doesn’t arrive at all.
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.
Please note, data is correct as of 1 July 2021