Scams demanding payment for phantom goods rise to 450,000 a year

Scams demanding payment for goods that never materialize are on the rise, such as packages supposedly held at the post office - Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Scams demanding payment for goods that never materialize are on the rise, such as packages supposedly held at the post office – Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

More than 450,000 scams have been reported that require payment for goods that never materialize, such as packages supposedly held at the post office.

The number of scams has risen by 654% in the past three years, according to police data revealed by the Office for National Statistics.

There were 454,000 such crimes in the year to last December, up from 60,000 in the year to March 2020.

Experts have attributed the rise to sophisticated criminal gangs taking advantage of customers’ online shopping habits, with the trend continuing since the Covid pandemic.

Overall, police-recorded fraud rose 25% to 1.1 million crimes in the year ending last December.

William Christopher, a civil fraud partner at Kingsley Napley, a law firm, said: “The scammers demand an upfront payment for goods or services that will never materialize, through false advertisements for loans, concert tickets or rental property, for example, or even targeting victims via messages posing as a delivery company.

“The reason this type of fraud is increasing at such an alarming rate is that scammers believe they can get away with it – the criminal justice system is simply not keeping up.”

It comes before the government’s new anti-fraud strategy, which will reclassify fraud as a threat to national security, elevating it to the same status as terrorism. Police chiefs will be tasked with increasing resources and combining capabilities to combat it.

Action Fraud, the police’s central crime reporting body, is being overhauled with a new ‘super brain’ computer system to analyze and ‘connect the dots’ on all fraud in the UK.

Solved burglaries drop below four percent

The data also showed that violent crimes rose by a fifth to a record 2.1 million offences, as the total number of crimes recorded by police reached 6.6 million for the first time in a year. Sexual offences, including rape, rose 19% to nearly 190,000, a record high and a 19% increase from 2020.

The number of solved burglaries fell below four percent for the first time, while the number of “burglaries against a person” – including pickpocketing – fell to 0.8 percent, meaning fewer than one in 100 result in a charge.

Of last year’s 192,336 home burglaries, only 7,507 – 3.9 per cent – ​​resulted in an accusation, down from 6.7 per cent in 2014. This represents 456 closed home burglaries each day without a hit, despite the commitment of the 43 police forces in England and Wales to send an officer to the site of each break-in.

Earlier this month, The Telegraph revealed that this is being compounded by allegedly soft justice in the courts, where burglars were convicted of up to 27 break-ins before being jailed.

“The public will expect improvements”

Harvey Redgrave, former number 10 counsel and chief executive of crime consultancy Crest Advisory, said: ‘The public will rightly expect an improvement in the proportion of such crimes solved and offenders brought to justice, particularly at a time when in which the government is claiming credit for meeting their pledge to recruit more police officers.”

Data shows some forces are solving fewer than one in 50 burglaries, including Gloucestershire (1.6%) and Hampshire (1.8%), followed by Hertfordshire, South Yorkshire and West Mercia (all at 2.3%). . At the top was South Wales with 8.9%, followed by Durham with 8.5% and Cambridgeshire with 6.9%.

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: “While thousands of thieves get away with it, our communities are being let down and the victims are being let down.” Yvette Cooper, Labor spokeswoman on home affairs, said the Conservatives “have no control over law and order”.

However, the Conservatives stressed separating data from the UK Crime Survey, which records people’s actual criminal experience, which showed an overall drop in crime of 52%, robbery of 70%, burglary of 51% and violence 41%. percent since 2010.

Chris Philp, Minister for Police, said: “We continue to make progress towards reducing crime in general, by recruiting an additional 20,000 police officers, but even more needs to be done to tackle rape and bring justice to victims. Operation Soteria is critical to transforming rape investigations and ensuring perpetrators get justice.”

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