Fraud and computer misuse crimes rise by more than a third

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) Crime Survey for England and Wales showed that there were an estimated 4.6 million fraud offences in the year ending March 2021, a 24% increase compared with 2020 figures. The survey also  revealed that fraud and computer misuse offences have risen by more than a third in England and Wales, largely driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey also reveals that there were 1.7 million computer misuse offences over the same period, an increase of 85% compared to the year ending March 2019. The rise in computer misuse offences was largely driven by a 162% increase in unauthorised access to personal information, including hacking.

In line with general trends, the legal sector has also fallen victim to large increases in cybercrime and computer misuse offences. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Scam Alerts in June 2021 reported a 125% increase from January 2020, with some recent high profile incidents also being widely reported in the media.

The SRA has also reported that year to date (to 23rd July) there have been 157 SRA Scam Alerts, representing an upward trend in the working day average of SRA Scam Alerts from 0.8 in 2020 to 1.2 for the first 6 months of 2021.

Councils in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also seen a significant rise in the number of cyber attacks over the last 12 months.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request to 47 councils by technology solutions provider Insight identified an average rise in cyberattacks of 213 percent in the period from March 2020 compared to the year before.

Hackney Council was the victim of a cyber attack in November 2020 with serious services disruption still affecting services. A statement on their website says

Council services are currently significantly disrupted due to a serious cyber-attack, and you may experience difficulty contacting us or using our services.

Key essential services, including our coronavirus response, continue to operate, but some of our services may be unavailable or disrupted for some time.

We are working hard to restore services, protect data and investigate the attack with the National Cyber Security Centre, National Crime Agency and external experts.

“(strengthen) defences to protect remote workers and eliminate gaps in security that could allow attackers to threaten essential services. It’s likely that many councils cannot do this alone. They need support and resources from central Government, or else we will see more and more employees and councils falling victim to attackers.”

Commenting on the crime trends, which show significant decreases in most other areas of crime influenced by the pandemic Billy Gazard from the ONS Centre for Crime and Justice said

“(there have been) substantial increases in fraud and computer misuse offences such as hacking, as fraudsters took advantage of behavioural changes during the pandemic, such as increased online shopping”.

The full survey can be viewed here.


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