UK suffers jump in online financial fraud

Online-identity company Garlik attributes a 20 percent rise in online financial fraud to the increasing 'professionalisation' of cybercrime

The UK is suffering a cybercrime wave that has seen online financial fraud jump 20 percent, according to a new report.

Reports of cybercrime in the UK rose nine percent over the course of 2007, according to the UK Cybercrime Report by online-identity company Garlik, which compiled government, police and analyst statistics.

The largest increase was in internet and email fraud, jumping to 250,000 incidents in 2007, from 207,000 in 2006.

Garlik chief executive Tom Ilube attributed the rise to the "professionalisation of online financial fraud", saying cybercriminals were turning to "sophisticated and professional techniques for trading and selling personal data for financial gain".

But there could be some hope on the horizon. Speaking at the RSA Conference Europe 2008 in London, Microsoft chief security adviser Ed Gibson, who helped advise the government on the newly formed Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU), described the unit as a "giant step forward for the UK" in tackling this type of everyday internet fraud.

He said: "There was a lack of reporting mechanism, now UK consumers can feel comfortable they will have a reporting mechanism with the PCeU."

The Garlik report uncovered a significant rise in the number of black-market sites trading stolen UK identities and financial details, rising from 27 to 57, with more than 19,000 illicit traders having been identified.

Online identity theft dropped by eight percent to affect just over 80,000 victims, while computer-misuse offences — such as hacking and the spreading of viruses — affected 132,800 people, compared to 144,500 in 2006, and the number of online sexual offences fell by two percent, to 830,000, the report said.

Ilube said in a statement: "The startling growth and professionalisation of online financial fraud is the big story coming out of this year's study."

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