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Which? exposes fraud hotspots across England and Wales

The capitals of dating fraud, computer repair scams and a host of other frauds are revealed today in exclusive analysis by the consumer champion Which?.

It comes as Which?’s analysis reveals that reported fraud in the UK has risen by more than 10% in one year (2015-16), with 264,204 frauds reported in 2016.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, Which? requested and obtained thousands of fraud reports made by victims during 2014-16 to Action Fraud (AF), the main reporting body for UK fraud. Which? has used these to map areas where certain types of fraud appeared to be more prevalent.

Norfolk is revealed as the hotspot for reported dating fraud, with 8,311 victims reported nationally being scammed into sending money to a prospective ‘lover’. This affected 1.6 people per 10,000 in Norfolk, compared to the national average of 1.1. The county was also the hotspot of reported lottery scams – where victims are duped into paying to enter a non-existent lottery (2.2 people per 10,000 compared with 1.0 nationally).

Residents in Northamptonshire are most likely to report being hit by online shopping and auction scams, reporting that a product sold online didn’t exist, arrive or match its description. This affected 21.6 victims per 10,000, compared with 16.9 nationally.

People in Dyfed-Powys, in mid-Wales, were most likely to report losing money to computer repair fraud – where cold callers offering to fix a non-existent computer glitch. Residents reported almost a thousand cases (994) over the three year period (19.3 people per 10,000 people, compared to the average of 10.4). This type of fraud was more commonly reported in areas with an older population.

Dyfed-Powys was also the hotspot for fake services fraud where people have been conned into paying an upfront fee for services that don’t exist, such as falsely offering to make a PPI claim for you. This affected 13.4 people per 10,000, compared to the national average of 9.5.

London is the hotspot for several fraud types, due to its large concentration of money and people. Those living and working in the capital are most at risk of falling victim to different types of scams, including: being charged fees for fake loans (19,531 reports), social media or email hacking (16,249 reports), scam door-to-door sales (15,907 reports), fraud involving false or stolen goods (41,108 repots), ticket fraud (14,949 reports) and regular payment (mandate) fraud (16,467 reports) – which sees people duped into changing a direct debit, standing order or bank transfer, by pretending to be an organisation the victim regularly pays, such as an energy or phone company.

Over the last two years, reports of regular payment fraud increased by 134% in London, while reported computer fixing fraud rose by a staggering 233% in the South East.

Other fraud hotspots include:

  • Dorset:Computer virus, malware and spyware fraud – 3.8 reports per 10,000 people (national average: 2.3)
  • Surrey:Financial investment fraud – 2.1 reports per 10,000 people (average: 1.3)
  • Warwickshire:Retail fraud – 15.7 reports per 10,000 people (average: 3.4)

As rates of reported fraud continue to soar, Which? is urging the Government to set out an ambitious agenda for tackling fraud and scams. This should include improving the way businesses handle customer data such as how data is kept safe, how to respond to a data breach, and how to ensure people get appropriate redress. Which? also wants the Government to ensure that the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) implements stronger rules to protect consumers from bank transfer scams.

Gareth Shaw, Which? money expert, said:

“As more information is available about us online than ever before, fraudsters are finding it much easier to know who to target and how.

“These criminals are constantly finding new ways to rip us off and those tackling fraud should be upping their game. The Government needs to set out an ambitious agenda to tackle fraud, while law enforcement agencies need to be working harder to identify and protect the people most at risk from fraud.”

People who have been the victim of a bank transfer scam can use the Which? tool to share their experience with the regulator: www.which.co.uk/bank-transfers.

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