Cyber crime is driving a huge surge in fraud offences, with seven out of 10 scams now involving an IT element, a police chief warned today.
Detective Superintendent Pete O’Doherty, head of the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, likened the offence to “modern-day burglary”.
He said: “From what I see day in and day out, cyber crime is rapidly increasing, both in volume and in complexity. As a pure crime, but also as facilitator for other crimes. It is evolving at a rapid pace.”
The total number of fraud offences reported to police nearly doubled in the last financial year. There were 230,845 frauds recorded in 2013/14 — more than 630 a day — compared to 122,240 the previous year, an 89 per cent increase.
Mr O’Doherty said that about 70 per cent of these scams now involved a “cyber element”, compared to around 40 per cent five or so years ago.
He added: “Cyber fraud has been described as the modern-day burglary. Now you don’t have to be in a person’s house to rob them — you can be sitting in Russia, for example, and using servers to rob someone in London. It is a global threat.”
The number of “pure” cyber crimes reported — such as computer virus attacks on companies — has also soared in the last year, from 11,523 to 22,315.
There were 494 cases of companies saying that their computer servers had been hacked.
About 6,000 people also told police their social media accounts such as Facebook were hacked into, mostly by ID fraudsters stealing details of their personal lives. A recent report by Tom Winsor, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, criticised police for failing to combat the huge rise in cyber offences, leaving the public at risk.
With cyber crime now estimated to cost Britain £27 billion a year, the Government has given extra funding for investigators. Scotland Yard is recruiting 400 officers for a specialist squad.
Detectives say the top “volume frauds” are online shopping and auction scams, advanced fee frauds, cheque, plastic card and online bank account cons, and investment scams.
Mr O’Doherty said there was also concern that many victims were unaware they had been targeted.
He was speaking after City of London police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau merged with Action Fraud, the national reporting centre.
Action Fraud is now in operation across England and Wales, and police believe its intensified work is part of the reason for the rise in recorded fraud offences last year.
The intelligence hub now receives 18,000 to 19,000 reports of fraud and cyber crime each month.
A team of 64 detectives, analysts and staff sift through thousands of cases searching for patterns and links to identify gangs and conmen. Information is then passed to regional police forces to investigate.
Mr O’Doherty said: “We now have one team under one roof, which we hope will be of massive benefit to victims. We want more people to report because if everyone does we can understand the extent of the problem.”
To contact Action Fraud call 0300 1232040 or visit actionfraud.police.uk