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UK hit by one online crime every 10 seconds

Financial fraud rife, say criminologists

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More than three million online crimes were carried out last year, according to estimates published today. These included more than 200,000 cases of financial fraud, twice the official number of real-world robberies carried out during the same period.

The report (pdf) was written by criminology firm 1871 Ltd and commissioned by online identity firm Garlik. It suggests that 60 per cent of the online crimes committed last year, an estimated 1.9 million incidents, were 'offences against the person' including abusive or threatening emails, false or offensive accusations posted on websites and blackmail perpetrated over the internet.

Online identity theft reached more than 90,000 incidents, unauthorised access to someone's PC with ulterior intent reached 144,500 and online sexual offences 850,000, claimed the report.

According to the report, 90 per cent of cybercrimes go unreported with victims deterred from coming forward as they wrongly believe the activity is not criminal or that the police will be unable or unwilling to investigate.

In addition, the lack of a clear, legal definition for cybercrime and therefore the absence of consistent reporting systems are cited as key factors hindering the investigation of e-crime in the UK.

The figures in the report are estimates, not official statistics. The report acknowledges that measuring unreported cybercrime is "an inherently imprecise activity" and the authors say they drew their conclusions from analysis of various sources. These included Hansard (the official edited verbatim report of proceedings in Parliament), newspaper archives, and reports from organisations such as UK payments association APACS, security firm McAfee, accounting and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

"Our study is the first step in measuring the impact of cybercrime in Britain," said Garlik CEO Tom Ilube "With information about individuals circulating the internet reaching high levels it's ever more important for people to be vigilant about handing out their personal data online to ensure that criminals don't use and abuse it."

Stefan Fafinski, CEO of 1871, said: "Although measuring cybercrime is difficult, it is clear that in many instances it is outstripping 'traditional' crime. This is a result of the unparalleled opportunities that the internet gives both for making familiar crimes easier and for enabling 'pure' cybercrimes that could not exist without the Internet."

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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