FraudTrack data analysis is based on all reported fraud cases across the UK with a monetary value of over £50,000 from December 2020 to November 2021. Each year we analyse the nature of reported fraud from a variety of open news and reporting sources.
In 2021, reported fraud leapt to £10bn, the largest figure ever reported in FraudTrack.
This year the data is heavily influenced by several very large cases, principally the estimated £6bn government support schemes fraud and a marked increase in the number of cases with monetary values over £50 million.
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Recent key findings include:
- The monetary value of reported fraud saw a significant increase in 2021 of £9.5 billion or 2014% due principally to fraud conducted on government support schemes.
- The level of reported fraud cases in 2021 is also thought to have been impacted by backlogs in the 2020 criminal court timetable caused by COVID-19. Court closures and backlogs will not only have affected reporting but also had an impact on the delivery of swift justice and support to victims.
- Reported cybercrime figures have risen steeply to £1.1 billion in 2021, largely as a result of two large, reported fraud cases in the year involving a Bitcoin scam and SIM-swapping attacks on mobile phone users. Cybercrime figures will also have been influenced by large numbers of employees working from home, increased reliance on technology during the COVID-19 pandemic and a rise in the use of cryptocurrency.
- The reported number of fraud cases continues to appear low though when comparing 2017 to 2019. However, it is worth noting the £6bn government support schemes fraud has skewed this statistic as we have included it as one case (in reality this fraud was composed of a large numbers of fraud cases).
Key facts and figures
The impact of COVID-19
In our FraudTrack report of 2020, we concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic had masked the true extent of reported fraud in 2020 and we projected that we would see dramatic increases in reported fraud in 2021.
When reviewing the headline data for The FraudTrack year 2021, it is clear to see the significant impact the pandemic has had on reported fraud and the dramatic increases in the total value of fraud. 2021 had a significantly larger value of reported fraud than any other year since the establishment of FraudTrack and an increase of 2014% on the reported value in 2020. Fraudulent behaviour that was a direct result of the pandemic has been a major catalyst for this increase.
Another potentially significant influence in the rise of reported fraud was the increase in the number of days the UK Courts were open in 2021. Whilst the March 2020 UK lockdown saw courtrooms close, changes in government guidance meant that they were allowed to stay open in the 2021 lockdowns, helping to ease the backlog of cases.
Case backlogs will not only have affected the number of reported fraud cases but also victims’ access to justice. The knock-on impact on witnesses’ recollections of events and their willingness to attend court to give evidence will have had further impact on the success rates of prosecutions in fraud cases.
The monetary value of fraud reported in 2021 is the largest reported since the inception of FraudTrack in 2003. The value of fraud reported in 2021 is 474% higher than the second largest reported year, 2017. This significant increase that has largely been driven by opportunities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic such as the estimated £6 billion reported fraud in the government Coronavirus support schemes and the 5536% increase in reported cybercrime fraud, possibly influenced by our increased reliance upon technology during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Total monetary value of reported fraud from 2003 to 2021
The top-ranking types of fraud
Third Party Fraud was the highest ranked fraud type and accounted for 62% of all reported frauds in 2021. The estimated £6 billion reported fraud in the government’s support schemes makes up the majority of this amount. However, another high-value case reported in this area is one in which eight workers at four separate logistics companies abused the self-declaration system for large postage firms, resulting in an estimated £81 million fraud on the Royal Mail.
'Unauthorised Use/Misuse of Assets’ was the second highest ranked fraud type, with £1.8 billion reported in 2021. This type of fraud accounted for 18% of the total of all reported frauds in 2021, over triple the 5% total reported fraud value in 2020.
The top-ranking types of fraud - please click on the different year’s to adjust the chart
Now ranking as the third most significant type of fraud in 2021, cyber-related fraud continues to report significant increases, a trend which is predicted to continue in the future. The table shows the significant 5536% rise in the value of cybercrime between 2020 and 2021. It is possible that cybercrime will become the largest source of fraudulent behaviour in years to come.
The opportunities presented to fraudsters by the COVID-19 pandemic have had a significant impact on the increase in cyber-related frauds. With the shift of many aspects of life to a remote setting, the use of technology has become increasingly important. Fraudsters have adapted their techniques in order to exploit weaknesses in this remote environment including the use of pretexting, phishing and smishing via phone calls, text messages, emails, and fake websites to acquire the personal details of their victims and access to corporate systems, data and financial resources.
Comparison of reported cyber related fraud cases 2021 and 2020
Industries & sectors most impacted by fraud
The industry sector reporting the highest monetary value of reported fraud in 2021 was Public Administration with an increase of 7050% from the value reported in 2020 due largely to the estimated £6 billion reported fraud in the Government’s coronavirus response schemes.
The Finance and Insurance sector reported a dramatic increase in reported fraud value and now accounts for a significant 24% of the total fraud value reported in 2021, compared to only 4% in 2020.
Previous version – FraudTrack 2021
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