One in ten Brits hit by cybercrime

Office for National Statistics reveals alarming extent of online crime

Cyber crime

One in ten Britons has been a victim of cybercrime in the past year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The 5.8 million estimated incidents of cybercrime over the past year will almost double the crime rate in England and Wales. 

That's also two million incidents more than an estimate the ONS released last October. Of the total, two million are computer misuse offences, including viruses, and 3.8 million are fraud offences, including payment card fraud.

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The report shows that 4.7% of payment card users were victims of fraud, similar to previous years. In more than 80% of bank and credit fraud, victims were reimbursed, according to statistician John Flatley

But unlike wider crime, the risk of being a victim of fraud is "more evenly distributed across society than most other crimes," Flatley noted, regardless of whether they live in urban or rural areas, or in deprived areas. 

Flatley also noted that Britons are 20 times more likely to be hit by fraud than traditional robbery and ten times more likely than "theft from person". 

"Deceptive crime"

The data is not taken from crime reports, as many online crimes are not brought to police. Instead, it's based on a survey of 9,000 people over six months, a technique that's used to estimate other crimes as well. 

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The ONS said fraud is a "deceptive crime", as victimisation is "indiscriminate, covering organisations as well as individuals."

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Because victims may not be aware they've been targeted, or be unwilling to report the crime, "the level of fraud reported via administrative sources is thought to significantly understate the true level of such crime."

The fraud and computer crime survey hopes to address that mismatch. "This is the first time we have published official estimates of fraud and computer misuse from our victimisation survey, and ONS is leading the world in doing this," said Flatley. "Together, these offences are similar in magnitude to the existing headline figures covering all other Crime Survey offences."

He added: "However, it would be wrong to conclude that actual crime levels have doubled since the survey previously did not cover these offences. These improvements to the Crime Survey will help to measure the scale of the threat from these crimes, and help shape the response."

Overall, crime in England and Wales decreased by 6%, the ONS added.

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