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Which? reveals fraud hotspots

Written by: Emma Lunn
Britain’s fraud capitals for scams involving fake romances, computer virus attacks, investment fraud and bogus tradespeople have been pinpointed by Which?

The consumer champion analysed police data from Action Fraud and crime survey data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to produce a detailed picture of the UK fraud threat.

The findings show fraud has soared by more than 12 per cent in the past year, but it is a crime that is massively under-reported.

The crime survey shows there were more than 3.6 million cases of fraud in England and Wales in 2018, but only 276,129 fraud and computer crime reports were made to Action Fraud in the 12 months to April 2019. These figures suggest fewer than 10 per cent of offences are being recorded by Action Fraud.

Common frauds by location

Which?’s analysis found London is the capital of online shopping and auction fraud – with 17 reports per 10,000 people, against a national average of 13. It also has the highest reported rate for ticket fraud (4.5 cases per 10,000 people against an average of 2.2) and investment scams (1.9 per 10,000 people against an average of 1.3).

Warwickshire has the highest reported rate for advance fee fraud, in which victims are asked to pay for goods or services that are never delivered – for example the ‘foreign prince’ who needs a small loan to help unlock untold riches or a fraudster posing as an estate agent who needs a deposit for a non-existent property. The rate of reports there is 15.8 per 10,000 people, against the national average of 11.9.

Dating scams, which typically see people duped into transferring money linked to a fake romance, are most reported in Sussex. The rate of 1.9 reports per 10,000 people is higher than the national average of 1.1.

People in Norfolk were most likely to report computer fixing fraud, with a reporting rate of 10.3 per 10,000 people, compared with the national average of just 5.9.

According to Action Fraud, online shopping and auctions fraud is the biggest reported type of fraud with 86,127 cases. This is followed by advance fee fraud (78,686); computer fixing fraud (38,891); and cheque, plastic card and online bank fraud (35,502).

Londoners were most likely overall to be fraud victims, with 104 cases reported per 10,000 people, while those in Northern Ireland (38 cases per 10,000 people) appeared to be least affected.

Average victim age

Which?’s analysis also revealed how different types of fraud are more likely to affect older or younger consumers.

Rental fraud – where prospective tenants are typically tricked into paying a deposit – was most likely to affect younger people, with 33 the average victim age. The average age of victims of both ticket fraud and online shopping or auction fraud was 37.

Older consumers were more likely to be targeted by bogus investment schemes (average victim age 64) or fraud recovery fraud, where victims are tricked by criminals claiming they can help recover lost funds (average victim age 65).

Jenny Ross, Which? money editor, said: “Fraud is spiralling out of control, so any measures that can help combat this worsening crime – such as the introduction of vital name check security for bank transfers – should be quickly introduced.

“The government must set out an ambitious agenda – with real accountability – to finally tackle the growing threat from scams, which are having a devastating impact on the lives of victims.”

Earlier this month Citizens Advice warned that fraudsters were still using traditional tactics – such as doorstep selling – to con people out of money.

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