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Most UK frauds now involve the internet

More than half of all frauds in the UK are now carried out through or initiated on the internet, the fraud protection service CIFAS has revealed.CIFAS told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that the internet was the channel of perpetration for 122,988 frauds in 2011, or 53 percent of the total for the year.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor on

More than half of all frauds in the UK are now carried out through or initiated on the internet, the fraud protection service CIFAS has revealed.

CIFAS told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that the internet was the channel of perpetration for 122,988 frauds in 2011, or 53 percent of the total for the year. In 2010, that number was 101,855, or 47 percent of all frauds.

"The internet has been the key focus for fraudsters," a CIFAS spokesman said. "It provides a key level of convenience and ease of use for consumers, but that same convenience is there for the fraudster whether they're a lone operator or a more organised criminal network."

CIFAS released the 2011 edition (PDF) of its annual Fraudscape report on Tuesday. Apart from pointing out that fraud in general went up nine percent between 2010 and 2011, the publication noted that the internet had become a much more prevalent vector for unauthorised account takeovers in particular.

Whereas in 2010 the internet was used for 38 percent of such takeovers, in 2011 the proportion was 62 percent. CIFAS said there was evidence to suggest there were more frauds taking place that involved online usernames and passwords.

"There has… been a proportionate decrease in the number of takeovers that have happened over the phone, which would indicate that where fraudsters were previously able to talk their way round the member of staff to gain access to an account, they are now finding this route closed off to them," CIFAS said, adding that this highlighted the need for regularly reviewing passwords and settings.

In most cases, the accounts being taken over are for bank or store cards. The fraud protection service noted that these takeovers were being increasingly used to make payments, rather than to change the account-holder's registered address so as to receive new cards.

The company also suggested that, the more gadgets get hooked up to the internet, the more of a target they become. "The increasingly embedded communications platforms such as smartphones, digital TV services or tablet PCs may also explain the surge in fraud against such products," it said.

The internet also accounts for around three-quarters of all identity fraud cases, the report suggested. These cases tend to involve phishing attacks, where people are tricked by imposters into giving up personal details.

"The anonymity of the internet, the ability to make a number of applications very quickly and the lack of a requirement to produce identity documentation (in many cases) make it the ideal channel for fraudsters," CIFAS said.

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