England, Wales see nearly 550% surge in advance fee fraud: Study

England, Wales see nearly 550% surge in advance fee fraud: Study

Total crime falls 15%, according to data by Office for National Statistics

By Burak Bir

LONDON (AA) — England and Wales saw fraud skyrocket 549% in advance fee payments in the 12 months up to March 2023, showed figures released on Thursday by Britain's national statistics office.

However, the Crime Survey for England and Wales data on offenses against households and people aged 16 and over indicated no significant change in fraud overall, even revealing that total crime had decreased by 15%.

However, offenses involving firearms rose 13% compared to previous the year ending on March 2022, while there was a 2% decline compared to period before that, coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic, showed the figures by the Office for National Statistics.

The total 50,489 knife-enabled criminal offenses recorded by the authorities was 7% lower than pre-coronavirus levels in the year ending March 2020, according to the statistics.

"Despite the overall decrease in knife-enabled crime recorded by the police, knife-enabled threats to kill increased by 24% (to 6,021 offences) in the year ending March 2023 compared with the year ending March 2020 (4,858 offences)," added the report.

Overall theft also decreased 20%, while theft from the person fell 33% and other kinds of theft of personal property 31%. Domestic burglary plunged 30% and vehicle-related theft declined 18%.

Additionally, criminal damage decreased by 33% in England and Wales, according to the report.

The figures showed that fraud had returned to pre-pandemic levels with no significant change despite the spike in advance fee fraud.

"Despite no significant change in fraud overall, there was a 549% increase in advance fee fraud (from 60,000 to 391,000 offences)," said the report.

Meanwhile, bank and credit account fraud decreased by 14% to 2.1 million offenses.

"The likelihood of being a victim varied by crime type, with fraud having the highest likelihood of victimisation (6%), followed by vehicle-related theft (3%)."

According to the figures, 195,315 incidents of sexual offense were recorded by police. This was a 20% increase from the year ending March 2020.

Estimates from the latest data showed that 2.1% of people aged 16 years and older had experienced sexual assault, including attempted offenses in the last year, the study added.

It said 21% of all sexual offenses had taken place over a year before to the incident being recorded.

The rate of crime recorded by also exceeded pre-pandemic levels as 6.7 million offenses recorded in the year ending March 2023, 11% higher compared with the year ending March 2020.

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