UK Markets open in 5 hrs 56 mins

Do you live in a fraud hotspot?

By Vicky Shaw, Press Association Personal Finance Correspondent
Which? analysed figures from Action Fraud to find the 'fraud capitals' for reports of particular crimes, from romance scams to bogus tradespeople.

People in Sussex are particularly likely to say they have fallen victim to romance scams, Norfolk is a hotspot for reports of computer fixing fraud, and London is the capital of online shopping and investment cons, analysis from Which? suggests.

The consumer group obtained police data from Action Fraud, the main reporting body for scams in the UK  to map out hotspots of reported fraud as well as looking at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) crime survey data.

Which?’s findings also suggest that the reported figures are just the tip of the iceberg – as many scams go unreported.

It said, for example, that while the crime survey shows there were more than 3.6 million cases of fraud in England and Wales in 2018, only 276,129 fraud and computer crime reports were made to Action Fraud in the 12 months to April 2019.

Its figures from Action Fraud suggest dating scams, which typically see people duped into transferring money linked to a fake romance, is most likely to be reported in Sussex.

The rate of 1.9 reports per 10,000 people is higher than the national average of 1.1.

People in Norfolk are particularly likely to report computer fixing fraud, with a reporting rate of 10.3 per 10,000 people, compared with the national average of just 5.9.

Meanwhile, London was identified by Which? as the capital of online shopping and auction fraud – with 17 reports per 10,000 people, against a national average of 13.

London also has the highest reported rate for ticket fraud at 4.5 cases per 10,000 people against an average of 2.2; and investment scams at 1.9 reports per 10,000 people against an average of 1.3.

Warwickshire has the highest reported rate for advance fee fraud, in which victims are asked to pay for goods or services that are never delivered.

Scams may start with an email from someone who claims they need a small loan to help unlock untold riches or a fraudster posing as an estate agent who needs a deposit for a non-existent property.

The rate of such reports in Warwickshire is 15.8 per 10,000 people, against the national average of 11.9.

Meanwhile, Surrey is a fraud hotspot for reports of bogus tradespeople and Hertfordshire has relatively high numbers of reports of people’s social media and emails being hacked.

Of the reports made to Action Fraud in the past two years, online shopping and auctions fraud is the biggest reported type of fraud, with 86,127 cases.

This is followed by advance fee fraud (78,686); computer fixing fraud (38,891); and cheque, plastic card and online bank fraud (35,502).

Which? also found the typical age of fraud victims varies depending on the type of con.

The average age of someone making a report to Action Fraud over the past two years is 49.

On average, victims of rental fraud, where prospective tenants are typically tricked into paying a deposit, are aged 33 – reflecting the younger age of many people living in the rental sector.

The average age of victims of both ticket fraud and online shopping or auction fraud is 37.

Older people are more likely to report being targeted by bogus investment schemes. The average victim is aged 64.

They are also more likely to report being tricked by recovery scams, where they are tricked by criminals who claim they can help recover lost funds. The average age of victims is 65.

Jenny Ross, Which? money editor, said: “Fraud is spiralling out of control, so any measures that can help combat this worsening crime – such as the introduction of vital name check security for bank transfers – should be quickly introduced.

“The Government must set out an ambitious agenda – with real accountability – to finally tackle the growing threat from scams, which are having a devastating impact on the lives of victims.”

Here are the most commonly reported types of fraud to Action Fraud over the past two years and the “fraud capitals” where they were most likely to be reported, according to analysis from Which?

Figures show the number of reports per 10,000 people in the areas in question, followed by the UK average number of reports per 10,000 people:

– Advance fee fraud, Warwickshire, 15.8, 11.9
– Bogus tradespeople, Surrey, 3.2, 1.8
– Cheque, plastic card and online bank fraud, Essex, 12.2, 5.4
– Computer fixing fraud, Norfolk, 10.3, 5.9
– Computer virus attacks, Surrey, 2.5, 1.9
– Dating scams, Sussex, 1.9, 1.1
– Fake loan fraud, Northamptonshire, 1.8, 1.2
– Hacking social media and email, Hertfordshire, 3.5, 2.5
– Investment fraud, London, 1.9, 1.3
– Mandate fraud, Surrey, 3.3, 2.0
– Online shopping and auctions, London, 17.0, 13.0
– Retail/consumer fraud, Essex, 12.7, 11.3
– Ticket fraud, London, 4.5, 2.2