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One in ten people in Britain was the victim of fraud or a cyber crime attack in the past year it has emerged as the true scale of the problem is revealed for the first time.

Almost six million offences are now being committed every year, almost doubling the official crime rate in England and Wales.

Cyber crime is now the most prevalent crime in the country with a person 20 times more likely to become a victim than suffer robbery and ten times likely to be defrauded than to suffer theft.

Unlike most other crimes, victims of cyber offences come from all ages, classes and geographic areas, meaning no sector of society can consider themselves safe from attack.

Mark Bangs, deputy head of crime statistics at the ONS, said: “For example, those living in rural areas were just as likely to be a victim of fraud as those living in urban areas. Similarly, people living in the most deprived areas were no more likely to be victims than those in the least deprived areas.”

The figures published by the Office of National Statistics are the most authoritative official estimates on the scale of the offences after questions on the categories were added to the Crime Survey for England and Wales from October for the first time.

The first findings indicate there were an estimated 3.8 million fraud and two million computer misuse offences experienced by victims in the previous year.

According to the ONS other crimes against adults in the year to March stood at 6.3 million, representing a 6% fall on the previous 12 months.

But the number of murders showed a “spike” up 34 to 571, the highest in a 12 month period for five years and thought to be the result in a worrying rise in knife related offences, which were up more than ten per cent.

The total number of sex offences was up 21 per cent, with rapes rising by 22 per cent, which statisticians have put down to the ongoing willingness of victims to come forward and report attacks.

John Flatley, of the ONS, said: “This is the first time we have published official estimates of fraud and computer misuse from our victimisation survey.

“Together, these offences are similar in magnitude to the existing headline figures covering all other crime survey offences.

“However, it would be wrong to concluded that actual crime levels have doubled, since the survey previously did not cover these offences.”

While the fraud and cyber crime figures are only estimates, they indicate that one in ten adults was a victim of at least one fraud or computer misuse offence in the last year.

Of the two million computer misuse incidents, the majority involved a computer or internet-enabled device being infected with a virus, accounting for 1.4 million incidents.

The remaining 0.6 million crimes related to “unauthorised access to personal information” – such as hacking.

The most common types of fraud experienced were bank and credit account fraud, with 2.5 million incidents, followed by “non-investment” fraud – such as scams related to online shopping.

Almost two thirds of fraud offences involved a loss of money for the victim but in the majority of cases the losses were relatively small with the person losing less than £250.

Also in the majority of cases the victim was fully reimbursed by their bank or credit card company.

Mark Castle, Chief Executive of Victim Support, says: “These figures show the staggering scale of fraud and cybercrime in England and Wales – with one in ten people now falling victim.

“As a charity that reaches out to almost 50,000 fraud victims a year, we know the serious impact these crimes can have.

“As well as possible financial losses, fraud can leave people feeling violated, lacking in confidence and ashamed.”

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