Fraudsters fleece millions of pounds from Hertfordshire victims during Covid pandemic

Action Fraud says criminals have taken advantage of the rise in internet purchases

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 11:31 am
Updated Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 11:32 am

Fraudsters have fleeced more than £20 million from people living in Hertfordshire during the coronavirus pandemic – with most victims stung in online shopping scams, figures reveal.

In Hertfordshire, 9,462 incidents of fraud and cyber crime were reported from the start of February last year to the end of March this year, according to data from Action Fraud.

The value of the crimes amounted to £26.7 million, the equivalent of around £6,297 each day.

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Across Great Britain, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey, 448,700 reports of fraud and cyber crime were made to Action Fraud over the 14-month period. Victims’ losses totalled £1.9 billion.

And Hertfordshire's figure could be higher with some 23,600 reported offences – worth £469.4 million – not recorded to a specific police force area.

The figures also show online shopping scams were most common type of fraud and cyber crime, along with advance fee and computer software frauds.

Criminals have taken advantage of the rise in internet purchases as well as concerns over health and wellbeing through the crisis, says Action Fraud, the UK's fraud and cyber crime authority.

A spokesperson for Action Fraud said: “In what has been an incredibly challenging year, we have sadly seen devious criminals taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic as a means to commit fraud.

"To carry out their scams, criminals have been honing in on people’s anxieties and the changes that have occurred to our daily lives, such as the fact we have all been shopping online more."

DI Rob Burns from Hertfordshire Police's Serious Fraud and Cyber Unit said: "Fraud and cyber-crime continues to be a significant and growing threat to Hertfordshire residents.

"Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Serious Fraud and Cyber Unit (SFCU) is a dedicated team of specially trained officers who constantly monitor and investigate cyber and fraud offences.

"The team has been expanding over recent years to meet the growing threat and have developed their tactics and capabilities as criminals become increasingly active and adapting their scams.

"The SFCU work in partnership with the National Crime Agency, Action Fraud and other partners to ensure that any new threats are identified and relevant advice is quickly passed onto potential victims.

"These national campaigns focus on different types of fraud throughout the year, covering things like online shopping, romance and pension fraud.

"Throughout the pandemic advice on all emerging threats has been shared through the press, online media and via the force’s Online Watch Link (OWL).

"Recently advice that has been shared includes warnings about scammers posing as HMRC, NHS Test and Trace, police and banking officials.

"All of the current advice around online and offline fraud can be found at www.herts.police.uk/protectyourmoney.

"Residents can also sign up to our OWL system at www.owl.co.uk and get advice and crime alerts sent direct to their email accounts.

"Residents are also advised to follow @HertsPolice on Twitter and Facebook to get all of the latest advice and news."

The Action Fraud figures also show the age of victims in the reported fraud and cyber crime offences over the 14-month period from February last year.

In Hertfordshire, the most commonly targeted were people aged between 40 and 49, with around 1,700 reported victims making up 18% of all those who gave an age.

There were some 2,500 reports with victims aged 60 and over – 26% – including 74 aged between 90 and 99.