Official figures for the year to December 2020 show levels of online fraud increased by up to 70 per cent, while almost all other types of crime were in decline. Further analysis showed a significant gap between reported online fraud and the estimated true amount, thought to be around six times higher. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) now reports that ‘people are more likely to fall victim to fraud or cyber offences above any other crime’.
The greatest reported increase in fraud related to “remote banking” and “ticket” fraud, which are attributed to the ‘greater number of people now regularly using internet, telephone and mobile banking’ and the ‘cancellation of music gigs and festivals’ respectively. A large increase of 38% was also reported for “online shopping and auctions” which are almost certainly linked to the closure of many high street shops during the pandemic. These increases have led to fraud now being the most common offence in England and Wales.
Reliance acsn Web Application Penetration Testing Specialist, Nick Dyer, shares his thoughts on the rise of web-based fraud: “The ongoing pandemic has provided an opportunity to fraudsters to tap into the global fear, uncertainty and doubt that so many people have surrounding the crisis, taking advantage of those trying to get through these tough times while they are struggling to pay bills or get the supplies they need. Many have been forced to use online services for the first time and are not aware of the dangers and how to spot fraudulent emails and websites.
It’s more vital than ever for e-commerce platforms and web application owners to protect their customers. Programs like the NCSC’s Takedown Service are helping to reduce the number of fraudulent web applications and are slowly battling the war of attrition for legitimate customers clicks and cash. Such services can only function through the accurate and thorough reporting of fraud – victims of fraud should also be encouraged to come forward and report their experiences to help turn the tide against malicious actors on the web.”
Online fraud is a modern scourge, particularly hitting the vulnerable in society. Fraudsters target businesses, not just individuals, though as the significant rise in so-called ‘push payment’ fraud over the pandemic has demonstrated – where fraudsters typically exploit the disconnect of ‘working from home’ to place fraudulent invoices and pay requests into companies. The best advice to counter this is to adopt a zero-trust policy regarding requests for payment, especially unsolicited messages. Check the source first and, if it looks suspicious or odd, report it.
Fraud can be reported to Action Fraud, the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre. Suspicious messages (texts, emails etc) should be reported to the NCSC via the NCSC Suspicious Email Reporting Service. Action Fraud has both an online reporting tool available 24/7, as well as a free reporting hotline at +44 300 123 2040.