More than £2.3 billion has been lost to fraud between April 2020 and March 2021 according to Action Fraud, the fraud and cybercrime reporting centre for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The figure represents a 33% year-on-year rise and is attributed to more people being online during the pandemic and the resulting surge in online shopping.

By far the most common type of fraud report received by Action Fraud in the past year involved online shopping and auction fraud, accounting for one in four of all incidents.
  • According to UK consumer champion Which? there were 103,254 reported incidents of online shopping and auctions fraud, leading to just over £69 million in losses.
  • There were also over 18,000 reports of computer fixing fraud in which fraudsters contact a victim and take remote control of their computers after claiming it needs repairing in some way. Total fraudulent losses are estimated at £22 million.
Real cost much higher

It’s likely that these figures are well below the real cost given that many people never report online fraud.
  • Which? said the Office for National Statistic’s Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimates that there were more than four million incidents of fraud in 2020, meaning that only around 10% of offences were reported to Action Fraud.
‘Got a problem’ scammers still surfing the tide of successful scams

Of the reported frauds to Action Fraud the second most common type of fraud was advance fee fraud. One of the most notorious examples is an email from a stranger in another country asking for financial help and to transfer money.

These types of fraud have been around for a relatively long time and you’d think that by now people wouldn’t fall for them, however, the number of victims is still high, suggesting a lot of education is still required.
  • Almost 39,000 incidents of these particular scam ‘advance fee fraud’ emails were reported to Action Fraud. The estimated total loss was just over £52 million.
Fastest growing threats

The fastest growing threat was phone fraud which was up by 83%. This includes phone calls or SMS messages from unknown numbers, which cost up to £15 to call or £1.50 to text back.

There has also been a surge in texts claiming to be from courier and delivery firms asking recipients for admin fees to retrieve packages.

Young hit hardest

Interestingly according to Action Fraud, younger people submitted more fraud reports in the past 12 months than older people.
  • Almost twice as many reports came from people aged 20 to 39 (43%) compared with over-60s (22%), despite both groups accounting for similar proportions of the UK population.
  • A greater online presence means that young people are at much higher risk of frauds that include digital elements: online shopping; online banking and ticket fraud.
  • Over-60s however, are more vulnerable to computer fixing fraud, as tech literacy tends to be comparatively lower.
Nail down your data

It’s important to use good antimalware software as an essential first step in warding off fraud by detecting malware, emails hiding malicious code and fake websites that also harbour viruses and other types of malware.
  • Antimalware software is also important in protecting names, addresses, email details, phone numbers and other personal data.
  • When sensitive data like this is stolen from a computer via malware, or from an organisations database it inevitably ends up in hacker forums and websites on the dark web for sale.
For instance stolen user ID details are used to apply for loans. According to Action Fraud losses amounted to over £4 million between April 2020 and March 2021. Cheque, card and online banking fraud also cost near £184 million in the same period.

It’s difficult to say how much of this is can be attributed to information stolen online but it’s probably substantial. And of course with ‘advance fee fraud’ the fraudsters got the email addresses from somewhere.

This is why BullGuard also recommends using Premium Protection to safeguard sensitive ID information. It monitors your personal data and alerts you should it appear on suspicious websites and forums.

Beyond this there are some important general points you can use to keep the fraudsters at bay.
  • Never share your personal details with anyone if you can’t confirm who they are.
  • Always take steps to verify who is contacting you, especially if they’re asking for personal information or payment details.
  • If in doubt about phone calls contact the company separately using contact details on its website and certainly not numbers given to you by callers.
  • Scam emails and texts will often contain bad grammar or spelling mistakes which screams ‘scam’. Avoid them.
Stay safe.