One in 10 people in England and Wales have been victims of cybercrime in past year, first official figures show
Police chiefs have called for a national campaign against online fraud and other cybercrime on the scale of last century’s seatbelt and drink-driving campaigns in the wake of figures showing that one in 10 adults have been victims of such offences in the past year.
Chris Greany, the City of London police’s economic command head, said that with around 1m cases reported to Action Fraud in the last year alone, it was not possible for all cases to be investigated.
On Thursday the Office for National Statistics said there had been more than 5.8m incidents of cybercrime in the past year, far more than previously thought and enough to nearly double the headline crime rate in England and Wales.
The first official estimate of the true scale of online shopping scams, virus attacks, thefts of bank details and other online offences was much higher than an initial ONS estimate in October last year, which put the annual figure at 3.8m, or 40% of all crimes.
Greany said fraud now cost an estimated £193bn a year and with half of all crimes against people in the UK being committed from abroad, it was becoming more challenging for police to tackle.
“Law enforcement agencies are becoming increasingly successful at targeting the most serious offenders; however, the scale of the challenge is such that prevention, and helping businesses and individuals protect themselves, is the only long-term way of combating the escalating threat,” he said. “That includes all industries taking proper steps to protect their customers from becoming victims of fraud.”
Greany endorsed a call for a national fraud and cybercrime campaign on a par with the seatbelt and drink-drive campaigns of the 1980s and 90s to create a more internet-savvy society.
Deputy chief constable Peter Goodman, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on cybercrime, said such offending was no longer a curiosity or a new specialism in policing. “The priorities for law enforcement are to make the UK a hostile place for cybercriminals to operate, improve the response to victims and develop capabilities in local forces. Transforming our response to these crimes is a challenge but it is a priority for investment in policing,” he said.
In March the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, was criticised for suggesting bank customers who were victims of online fraud should not be refunded by banks if they had failed to protect themselves from cybercrime.