Online scams and hacking boomed during pandemic
Representative image by iStock
LOCKDOWNS and restrictions in movement in England and Wales saw a spike in online shopping which led to “substantial increases” in computer crimes and online fraud, suggests a recently released data, which also shows some decline in theft and domestic burglary in the year ending March 2021.
As per Office for National Statistics (ONS) data revealed on Thursday (22), pandemic times in the UK saw substantial increases of internet and computer misuse offences, such as hacking and online shopping fraud.
Data from ONS shows almost 57 per cent spike in ‘online shopping and auctions’ fraud in the latest year – from 62,509 to 97,927 offences. ‘Financial investment’ frauds also saw a spike of 44 per cent from 14,024 to 20,260 offences, the data says.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau also reported a 55 per cent increase in ‘hacking – personal’ offences, a rise from 3,481 to 5,390 offences.
Scams related to shopping, investments and delivery-related frauds, which are usually carried out over phone and by text, had already been on the rise in the UK but at a slower pace in pre-pandemic times.
Billy Gazard, from the ONS Centre for Crime and Justice, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on patterns of crime.
“There were large decreases in theft offences, such as domestic burglary and theft from the person, as more people stayed at home and limited their social contact.
“At the same time, there were 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.”
While theft and public place offences saw a decline during pandemic, police reported a 6 per cent increase in reported domestic abuse cases.
It is “difficult to determine” the levels of domestic abuse in the country using police recorded data because of changes in the way the crimes are reported so “we cannot conclude whether there has been an increase in the number of victims of domestic abuse”, the ONS said.
“Data from victim services suggests that experiences of domestic abuse may have intensified during periods of national lockdown and that victims faced difficulties in safely seeking support under these conditions,” ONS said.
According to the figures, year-on-year the number of homicides fell by 16 per cent to 600 offences, there was a 15 per cent drop in the number of offences involving knives or sharp instruments and police recorded offences involving firearms were down 14 per cent.
Overall, police recorded 5.4 million crimes in England and Wales in the year ending March 2021, a 10 per cent decrease from the previous year, resulting from massive decline in theft but spike in online frauds.