Fraudsters posing as Microsoft IT workers fleeced 34,500 Britons out of “hundreds of millions of pounds” before police announced their arrests this week.
Such scams cost UK consumers an estimated £10bn in 2016, says a new report from the National Audit Office (NAO). However, online fraud isn’t only a consumer problem – businesses are also estimated to have lost £144bn.
In one of the largest cases reported this month, fraudsters were sentenced for a £12m scam involving Lincolnshire NHS trust. Conspirators conned hospitals and councils by forging emails, letters and faxes, the Lincolnite reports.
The NAO says fraud is the most commonly experienced crime in England and Wales with most of the cases involving online scams. Yet, despite the size of the problem, only one in every 150 police officers focus on fraud investigations, the Daily Mail says, calling the NAO study a “damning report”.
In cases involving consumer fraud, almost four out of ten cases involved victims who lost more than £250, the NAO says.
UK residents have lost money attempting to buy jewellery, cameras and musical instruments. One person reported losing £5,000 after attempting to purchase a houseboat from a fake website, the BBC reports.
“It is really important that people don’t rush into buying an item when they spot a bargain, but take some time to make sure it is genuine first,” Citizens Advice head Gillian Guy told the BBC.
In the Microsoft tech support case, the accused allegedly cold called residents saying they had “detected a fault with their target’s PC and fooled victims into giving them remote access”, the BBC reports, and then demanded a fee to fix the issue or convinced residents to provide bank account information.