Fraud and Computer Misuse – The Most Common Crimes in the UK

Fraud and computer misuse now account for half of all crimes in England and Wales, but 80% of victims no NOTHING about the criminals who acted against them!

Fraud and Computer Misuse now Account for Half of all Crime in England and Wales (1) , this means that in order to fully understand crime today, students of A-level Sociology REALLY need to know something about these two types of crime.

This is not only an important update relevant to the crime and deviance aspect of the AQA A-level sociology specification, it’s also VERY IMPORTANT that students educate themselves about the risks of being a victim of fraud and computer misuse and take appropriate measures to protect themselves and stay safe online.

Defining Fraud and Computer Misuse

The Office for National Statistics defines these crimes as below:

Fraud

Fraud involves a person dishonestly and deliberately deceiving a victim for personal gain of property or money or causing loss or risk of loss to another.

While Fraud can happen offline, most fraud today occurs online and the most common types known to include:

  • banking and payment card frauds
  • consumer and retail frauds
  • advance fee payment frauds

Computer misuse

Computer misuse covers computer viruses and any unauthorised access to computer material, as set out in the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

This can include any device using software accessible online, for example: computers smartphones, games consoles and even smart TVs. It includes offences such as:

  • the spreading of viruses.
  • hacking – gaining unauthorised access to information
  • denial-of-service (DoS) attacks – the flooding of internet servers to disrupt or take down a network or website.

Both of these types of crime are types of Cyber Crime (most fraud and all computer misuse).

How much Fraud and Computer Misuse are there in England and Wales?

The latest data from the TCSEW show that Fraud and Computer misuse have been increasing rapidly in recent years, and now account for more than half of all crime in England and Wales.

Fraud and Computer Misuse were only added to the Crime Survey of England and Wales recently, and there are so many incidents that the Office for National Statistics records records two totals – one with these crimes and one without, so we can make a fair comparison of all other crimes over a longer time scale.

This bar chart gives you an idea of just how much Fraud and Computer misuse there is compared to all other types of crime:

The above chart shows incidents, and the ONS estimates there were nearly 10 million adult victims of fraud and computer misuse in the 12 month period to December 2020, that’s more than 1 in 5 adults.

The increase has been so rapid that the UK government has recently declared that there is a ‘new battle front‘ against these types of crimes.

Fraud and Computer Misuse – Key statistics

To get a more in-depth analysis of Fraud and Computer Misuse we need to go back to this 2019 report: The Nature of Fraud and Computer Misuse (March 2019). This report notes the following:

Fraud

  • The amount of Fraud has increased in the last two years.
  • 76% of victims lost money, but around half lost less than £250.
  • Only 15% of fraud crimes were reported to the police
  • The likelihood of being a victim was generally lower in older age groups and greater in higher income households, there was little variation across gender and ethnicity.
  • In 63% of fraud incidents, there had been no contact between the victim and the offender.
  • Less than 15% of people could say ‘anything’ about the person who committed the Fraud against them – it’s a very ‘anonymous’ crime where the criminals are concerned!

Computer Misuse

  • Computer Misuse incidents have actually decreased in the last two years overall – especially crimes involving viruses being put on devices.
  • 21% of computer virus incidents resulted in data being accessed or lost.
  • As with fraud, older people aged over 75 were less likely to be victims of computer misuse
  • Over 90% of people reported taking security measures to keep themselves safe online, which could explain the decrease in this type of crime.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

Students really need to pay attention to Fraud especially as it is the crime with the highest VICTIM count in England and Wales, so very relevant to victimology – and there is little variation by class, gender and ethnicity, only age it seems.

This material is also relevant to the media and crime topic, because more than half of all fraud is committed online, as are ALL crimes of computer misuse.

From a methods perspective, it’s worth noting that around 80% of victims of these crimes can say NOTHING about the people who committed crimes against them – these are truly faceless crimes, very possibly committed by criminals outside of the UK, so this is also relevant to the topic of globalisation and crime.

Find out More….

This Power Point Presentation from the Office for National Statistics outlines some of the problems with measuring these crimes.

If you want to find out more about how to stay safe online and protect yourself from these types of crime – there is a section at the end of The Nature of Fraud and Computer Misuse.

Students might like to do independent research on these types of cyber crime in Scotland and Northern Ireland to get a fuller picture covering the whole of the United Kingdom!

Qualifications

(1) Please forgive the slightly misleading title! The data on fraud and computer misuse are from England and Wales only, but for the sake of having a short, visible and digestible title I shortened this to the UK.

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