One in ten Britons falls victim to online crime

Cybercrime now "the prevalent crime in the country" with nearly six million reported offences

A person sits with a laptop computer
(Image credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

New figures have revealed the true extent of cybercrime in England and Wales, with one in ten adults reported to have fallen victim to fraud or another online offence last year.

Crime data for 2015 recorded by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which covers online offences for the first time, shows there have been 5.8 million incidents. That's "far more than previously thought", says The Guardian, and much higher than the initial ONS estimate published in October last year.

Cybercrime is now "the most prevalent crime in the country", says the Daily Telegraph, "with a person 20 times more likely to become a victim than suffer robbery and ten times more likely to be defrauded than to suffer theft".

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

"At long last, we have the true picture of crime in England and Wales and it puts the former home secretary's [now Prime Minister] Theresa May's record in a new light," says shadow home secretary Andy Burnham.

For years fraud was thought of as a "victimless crime" which mainly affected businesses and banks, says BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw . It was not seen as a priority by police and politicians.

But the widespread use of computers, laptops and smart-phones to facilitate fraud has made the problem more pervasive. The chance of being a victim is the same "regardless of social class or whether someone lives in a deprived or affluent, urban or rural area", says the Guardian.

"That is something that we haven't seen before, says John Flatley, head of crime statistics at the ONS, who agrees that the victims are not confined to one group. "The risk is spread across all demographics," he says.

While the vast majority of cybercrime is made up of computer misuse offences and bank and credit card fraud, the figures also reveal that incidents of harassment – including malicious communications, social media abuse and revenge porn – have risen by a staggering 90 per cent.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.