Fraud levels have returned to pre-pandemic levels but remain sky high, according to estimates from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW).
The CSEW estimated that there were 3.5m cases of fraud in the year to March. This was roughly equivalent to pre-pandemic levels, with the CSEW arguing the pandemic fraud spike was not a permanent trend.
“The increase in fraud was specific to the period of the coronavirus pandemic, rather than a sustained change in trends,” the CSEW said.
Bank and credit fraud were down 14 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels although advance fee fraud – when victims have to pay for a product in advance – increased significantly.
Last year, the telephone-operated CSEW, conducted by phone due to the pandemic, estimated that there were 4.5m fraud offences in the year to March.
Andrew Durant, senior managing director in the forensic and litigation consulting segment of FTI Consulting, said it was no surprise fraud levels were still so high, given the low risk of being convicted.
Durant argues that since 2012 there has been a persistent fall in the number of fraud cases prosecuted, with the number of cases being pursued falling 12 per cent last year.
“Even if one is charged and convicted, the sentences are paltry; fraudsters can see the advantage of logging online to commit these crimes as there is less risk and easier pickings,” he said.
“Clearly, a more effective approach to tackling fraud is needed – enforcement must be more impactful in order to move the dial.”
While fraud levels had come down from their pandemic peak, there were still widespread concerns that fraud remains a major issue.
Police-reported fraud increased by 15 per cent to 1.1m offences compared to last year, with this stemming from an increase in offences reported by UK Finance, the banking industry body.
Alex West, director in PwC’s restructuring and forensics team, commented: “Fraud continues to be a major societal challenge in the UK as it is elsewhere in the world”.
“Fraudsters are increasingly using new technologies such as GenAI and deep fakes to scam victims and we all need to better understand fraud threats and improve our personal level of defence,” he continued.
Concerns have been increasingly raised about the scale of fraud in the UK. A recent UK Finance report revealed that over £1.2bn was stolen in 2022.
Many have warned that the official figures hugely underestimate the extent of fraud, as a large number of cases will never be reported.
The government launched its fraud strategy earlier this year which included plans to clamp down on spoof numbers as well as create a National Fraud Squad with 400 new posts. The government hopes to put more fraudsters in jail for offences.