LONDON — Individuals lost an estimated £10 billion to fraud in 2016 while the private sector lost around £144 billion, according to the Annual Fraud Indicator.
Online fraud is now the most commonly experienced crime in England and Wales, but the National Fraud Office (NAO) says not enough is being done to tackle it. Cyber-related fraud accounted for 16% of all estimated crime incidents in the year ending September 2016, with an estimated 1.9 million cases.
But since fraud is under-reported, the figures could be much higher.
“For too long, as a low value but high volume crime, online fraud has been overlooked by government, law enforcement and industry,” said Amyas Morse, head of the NAO. “It is now the most commonly experienced crime in England and Wales and demands a more urgent response,” he said.
In almost 40% of cases, individuals reported losses of £250 or more. Meanwhile, there has been an increase of 103% in cases of “card not present” fraud, which includes internet fraud, between 2011 and 2014.
The NAO is concerned that resources to tackle online fraud are insufficient, and has criticised the Home Office’s response as “not proportionate.” While one in six police officers’ main role was neighbourhood policing in 2016, it said, only one in 150 police officers’ main role was economic crime. But the total number of fraud incidents has been rising steadily since 2012.
“While the Department is not solely responsible for reducing and preventing online fraud, it is the only body that can oversee the system and lead change,” said Morse. “The launch of the Joint Fraud Taskforce in February 2016 was a positive step, but there is still much work to be done. At this stage it is hard to judge that the response to online fraud is proportionate, efficient or effective,” he said.
The NAO has found that the government’s Taskforce is too narrowly focussed on banking, and relies too heavily on voluntary participation from industry and law enforcement.
An estimated £130 million are currently held in banks that cannot accurately be traced back and returned to fraud victims. The NAO said one challenge was persuading banks and other law enforcement bodies to take on responsibility for preventing and reducing fraud.
Other findings include:
- Data-sharing between agencies is poor.
- There are currently no official statistics for fraud losses incurred by either individual banks or businesses.
- There is no legal requirement for banks to report fraud or share reports with government.
According to the NAO, these issues have made the scale of the problem difficult to gauge, and a proportionate response difficult to plan. The increase in online fraud, it said, suggests that people are unaware of the risks and policing is insufficient.
In the year to 30 September 2016, 6.3% of adults were victims of fraud, rising to 7.9% of people between 25 and 34.