Government reports sharp cyber-crime rise

Report shows 29 percent increase in Online fraud and forgery

Internet credit-card fraud is a flourishing industry, contrary to the assurances of e-commerce merchants, according to official crime figures released by the British government Tuesday.

This is the first time substantial evidence of Internet swindling has been officially acknowledged by the government, although it only reaffirms what many security experts and Internet pundits have been claiming for months.

The government's new figures show that Internet fraud and forgery in general have increased by a substantial 29 percent over the past year.

Head of Home Office Research, Paul Wiles says new counting rules may have been the main reason for an such a dramatic increase but also concluded that new mechanisms for purchasing goods and services on the Web had increased opportunities for fraud.

But a spokeswoman from the Home Office also says that often it's difficult to separate these statistics. She comments: "Sometimes if a crime is related to the Internet, it may not always appear like it. Various topics could be used to cover Internet crime. The law isn't defined around Internet crime specifically."

Fraudulent crime has been the main reason for a damning overall picture of crime in Britain and is responsible for well over half of all last year's increased criminal activity.

E-commerce merchants and Internet retailers have been quick to dismiss so-called press "scare stories" about credit-card fraud on the Internet. Some have suggested that online crimes have even been concealed by many retailers because of fears of the negative effect these might have on public take-up of e-commerce.

The release of the government's crime figures comes just a week after one of the most significant publicly exposed Internet crime waves to date. High profile incidents of criminal Internet activity have been uncovered in both the US and the UK thanks to the decision by some e-commerce companies to publicly acknowledge being targeted instead of trying to sweep it all under the carpet.

The banking industry's credit association also recently estimated that although online commerce currently only accounts for two percent of all credit card transactions in the UK, it generates around 50 percent of all customer complaints.

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