The Government has been accused of presiding over an almost eightfold increase in fraud offences, as the Home Secretary launches a major nationwide anti-fraud drive.
Fraud offences account for more than 40 per cent of all crime and direct cost more than £7 billion annually in England and Wales, according to Home Office figures.
The rate of fraud related crime has rocketed in the digital era, with the public using online services to purchase an increasing number of goods and services.
People are also exposing themselves to a growing risk of identity theft, by sharing key personal information on social media and through other online services.
The Government is urging people to be wary of fraud
The Government’s Stop! Think Fraud campaign includes a new website with fraud safety advice and adverts on billboards, television and social media.
There were 3.3 million fraud offences in the year ending June 2023, a 13 per cent decrease compared with the previous year, according to the Office for National Statistics’ Crime Survey for England and Wales.
Home Secretary James Cleverly said: “Our bold fraud strategy is continuing to deliver for the British people.
“This new campaign is a powerful tool to add to our arsenal, which already includes a world-first agreement from tech firms to prevent online fraud and the rollout of a national fraud squad that has 400 expert investigators.
The Government’s Stop! Think Fraud campaign includes a new website with fraud safety advice and adverts on billboards, television and social media
“I encourage everyone to stop, take a moment to think about fraud, and share this messaging far and wide.”
But Labour said the reduction in fraud offences last year, comes against a backdrop of an almost eightfold increase in the amount of fraud under Conservative rule.
Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry said: “Under this Tory Government, the amount of fraud has increased, from around 400,000 offences per year to 3.2 million, and the losses to the UK as a whole have grown from £38.4 billion per year to £219 billion.
“After 14 years spent sleepwalking through the escalation of the crisis, launching an ad campaign in response is the definition of too little, too late.
“This new campaign ignores the £158 billion lost to fraud each year by UK businesses, and does not even mention the two biggest components of those losses, procurement and payroll fraud."
Security minister Tom Tugendhat said: “Fraud ruins lives. Following this advice will give people the best tips to stop fraudsters from stealing their hard-earned cash, and point them towards all the help and information on offer.”
Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy at consumer group Which?, said: “The onus shouldn’t fall just on consumers to protect themselves.
“Government should urgently plug the gaps in fraud prevention, particularly in the telecoms, online advertising and domain sectors, making it harder for scammers to reach potential victims in the first place.
“Tackling fraud must be made a national priority and a fraud minister should be appointed who can bring industries together to disrupt and block online criminals.”