‘Substantial’ rise in fraud and hacking during coronavirus pandemic

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raud and hacking soared during the pandemic as criminals “took advantage of behavioural changes” while reports of domestic abuse-related offences also rose, official figures show.

Figures for the year to March detail the fullest picture to date of crime patterns during the pandemic.

Action Fraud, the national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, reported a 28% rise in fraud offences, from 312,035 in 2019/20 to 398,022 in 2020/21.

The data showed a 57% increase in “online shopping and auctions” fraud in the latest year (from 62,509 to 97,927 offences) and a 44% increase in “financial investment fraud” (from 14,024 to 20,260 offences), the ONS said.

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau also reported a 55% increase in “hacking – personal” offences referred by Action Fraud (from 3,481 to 5,390 offences).

(PA Graphics) / PA Graphics

The police recorded 844,955 offences (not including fraud crimes) flagged as domestic abuse-related for the 12-month period, representing a 6% increase from 798,607 offences in the previous year.

This included 672,383 violence-against-the-person offences labelled as domestic abuse-related, a 7% increase compared to the previous year.

It is “difficult to determine” the levels of domestic abuse in the country using police recorded data because of changes in the way the crimes are reported so “we cannot conclude whether there has been an increase in the number of victims of domestic abuse”, the ONS said.

But it added: “Data from victim services suggests that experiences of domestic abuse may have intensified during periods of national lockdown and that victims faced difficulties in safely seeking support under these conditions.”

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