The UK’s top danger is not violent crime, street theft or burglary, but cyber-crime.
Fraud is now the most common UK crime, as con artists exploit a new digital landscape to wreak havoc.
Upwards of five million cyber offences are committed each year, accounting for over half of all UK crime, with nearly one in 10 Britons falling victim.
The criminals can plunder your bank account, use your credit card, steal your identity and even drain your pension to enrich themselves at your expense. To make things worse, law enforcement and businesses have failed to address the threat with the appropriate measure of resolve, according to Sir Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office.
“Fraud is now the most commonly experienced crime in England and Wales and demands an urgent response,” he said.
Do not just rely on the authorities: you must take steps to protect yourself. Identity fraud has spiked to record levels, with an astonishing 500 new victims every single day, according to anti-fraud organisation Cifas.
Identity fraud is forecast to cost the UK £5.4billion per year, with 172,919 reporting the crime in 2016.
And this may just be the tip of the iceberg, as many either do not realise they have been scammed or are too embarrassed to report it. More than 8 out of 10 identity frauds were committed online, with the thieves gathering key information such as the victim’s name and address, date of birth and bank account details.
Such details are obtained through pc hacking, fraudulent emails, trawling social media pages, pretending to be the victim’s ban, trusted retailer or police and stealing or buying stolen data through the “dark web”.
Cifas chief executive Simon Dukes says many victims knew nothing until they received a random bill or discovered their credit rating had taken a hit: “The vast amount of personal data available either online or through data breaches is only making it easier for the fraudster.”
Despite the danger, large numbers fail to take straightforward measures to protect themselves, Dukes adds.
Failing to install antivirus software, using the same password for multiple accounts and logging onto bank accounts using unprotected public wi-fi all expose you to unnecessary danger.
Some scammers have taken to skimming credit card’s 16-digit number, expiry date and security code, which is then used online at the victim’s expense. This is done either by physically stealing your card or by capturing your details when you use a doctored ATM machine.
To avoid this possibility, card holders should check ATM’s carefully for suspicious equipment and never hand over your card to anyone.
This comes as technical specialists warn unsuspecting users about 21st century dangers in this brave new digital world.