Norfolk is the dating fraud capital of England and Wales, while Surrey is the hotspot for investment scams, new Which? analysis reveals.
We obtained thousands of fraud reports under the Freedom of Information Act to pinpoint areas where certain types of fraud are prevalent. We’ve also created an interactive map, so you can see the types of scam most commonly reported in your area.
The data reveals Dorset as the capital of computer virus, malware and spyware scams, while Northamptonshire is the capital for online shopping and auction fraud reports.
Computer repair scams
Elsewhere, Dyfed-Powys was the capital for computer-repair fraud reports; in these scams, a fraudster phones you pretending there’s a fault with your computer and then demands a fee for fixing it.
Our research suggests that this fraud – which has risen 47% in two years – tends to target areas with an older population.
Meanwhile, regular-payment fraud – where a fraudster persuades you to re-route a regular payment by posing as, say, your energy company – is reported more in areas with higher house prices, such as London and Surrey.
We got figures for 2014-2016 from Action Fraud, the main reporting body for UK fraud. This data shows 264,204 frauds were reported in 2016 – up 10.7% on 2015.
But not every fraud is reported to Action Fraud; a survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests there may be as many as 5.4m fraud and computer misuse cases a year.
As rates soar, we’re calling on the new government to prioritise fighting scams.
Where are the fraud hotspots?
We’ve identified hotspots for the most common types of fraud reports, and plotted them on the map below.
Although cheque, plastic card and online bank fraud was the fourth most commonly reported fraud, it’s not on this map or the one below because some reports are made by banks so the location is that of the bank, not the victim.
If you’re not reading this on which.co.uk, see our hotspots map here.
What are the frauds in my area?
If you’re not reading this story on which.co.uk, use our interactive fraud-checker here.
Scotland isn’t a member of Action Fraud (although people living there can still submit reports to it) and Northern Ireland joined only in 2015; as rates weren’t comparable to those in England and Wales, they’re not shown on this map.
Protect yourself from scams
We’ve shown the five reported frauds most on the rise between 2014 and 2016. Below are our tips on how to avoid them.
1. Computer fixing fraud
Scammers pretend to be from well known companies such as Microsoft or BT, and claim to have identified a problem with your computer. The victim pays for the scammer to fix a non-existent problem, or in some cases has harmful malware installed on their machine.
- Don’t allow someone you don’t know to remotely access your computer.
- If someone requests personal information or payment, hang up the phone.
- If you think a company genuinely needs to contact you, ring it – but don’t use the number that the potential fraudster gave you.
2. Fraud against shops
Although this directly affects retailers, it can impact consumers; many shops now have access to large amounts of customer data that could end up in the hands of fraudsters.
- Check that the sites you use for online shopping are encrypted – look for the padlock symbol and the prefix ‘https’ in the address bar.
- Be cautious when sharing personal data with shops – do you really need to sign up to every mailing list?
3. Account application fraud (excluding mortgages)
This involves opening an account using a stolen identity or false information, from which fraudsters obtain cash or credit. Your personal details can be stolen through physical theft, hacking, cold calling, or through data breaches.
- Check your credit report at least once a year.
- Shred anything with your personal details on it before disposing.
- Never reveal bank details over the phone or via email.
4. Regular-payment fraud
This tends to hit wealthier consumers and businesses. Victims receive an email or letter purporting to be from a company that they regularly pay for services, such as an energy or phone company; in fact, it’s from a fraudster wanting to ‘update’ bank details for the regular payment.
- Tell your bank immediately if you notice any unusual activity on your bank statements.
- Don’t leave bills lying around where others can see them.
- Check all changes in financial arrangements with any company directly using the contacts you’d normally use.
5. Fees for fake services
Examples include fake employers offering jobs on the condition that money is sent for ‘security checks’, or cold callers offering to make PPI claims on behalf of a victim who must first pay a fee.
- You don’t need to pay to make a PPI claim – use our free tool
- Be wary if asked to pay upfront for any service – employment checks shouldn’t cost money!
For more advice on protecting yourself from internet scams, visit our consumer rights page.