Fraud and computer hacking up almost a third during pandemic
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Suffolk saw a 30% increase in the number of fraud and computer hacking crimes during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to latest figures.
Police called the rise disappointing, but not hugely surprising, due to increased use of online services during lockdowns and restrictions on movement.
Experimental data from the Office of National Statistics showed that 4,364 fraud and computer misuse offences were referred from Suffolk to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau by Action Fraud in the year ending March 2021 — equalling about six offences for every 1,000 residents.
Across England and Wales, the total increased by 27% to 428,489 — or seven per 1,000 population.
Data showed a 57% increase in 'online shopping and auctions' fraud (from 62,509 to 97,927 offences) and a 44% increase in 'financial investment fraud' (from 14,024 to 20,260).
Unlike other crime statistics, which are presented by police force area based on where an offence takes place, fraud figures are instead organised by the resident area of the victim.
Overall crime fell by 16% across Suffolk during the same period — with significant falls in theft (down 53%) and robbery (down 44%), but a 21% increase in stalking and harassment — again, largely due to an increase in perpetrators offending online.
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A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said: "This rise in online fraud, although disappointing isn’t a huge surprise when you consider we have been online much more due to the lockdown.
“We understand that fraud has a significant impact both on individuals and businesses and we work hard to understand this and support victims during these long and complex investigations.
“We closely monitor fraud reporting in conjunction with Action Fraud. Due to the way fraud is reported, the large numbers of online reports are often not Suffolk-based, so focus locally is on prevention and protection in these cases.
"The complexity, change and reliance of technology and sophistication of tactics by criminals has led to rise in all fraud nationally and is a global crime where criminals not restricted by geographical border. This can cover romance fraud, various scams or ‘phishing’ and even blackmail.
"Suffolk has a specialist cyber team in addition to specialist fraud trained officers who look to prosecute those found committing such offences, as well as alerting the public about fraud prevention wherever possible."
To find out how to report fraud, visit the Action Fraud website.