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Online fraud: what does the public think?

Insights Report


Report authors: Amber Evans, Strategy & Insight Manager | Fernanda Reynoso-Serna, Analyst | Freya Smith, Analyst | Dr Ellie Brown, Head of Strategy | Sophie Davis, Director of Research

Thursday 28 September 2023


Most people are more worried about being affected by online fraud than other crimes, such as knife crime, burglary and sexual offences, according to a new large-scale survey – which also highlights the emotional impact of being an online fraud victim.

The research, funded by the Dawes Trust, was based on a nationally representative sample of over 3,313 adults across England and Wales as part of a survey conducted by data organisation WALR.

The vast majority of those polled, 92%, said online fraud was a very big or quite big problem in the UK. When asked what crimes they were most worried about being affected by, 55% said online fraud, 44% burglary and 47% knife crime.

The poll also found that younger people (aged 18-34) were most likely to be affected by online fraud, with 32% reporting having been a victim in the last twelve months compared to 16% of over-35s. However, half of those questioned believed the elderly were most at risk.

Of those who had been victims of online fraud:

  • 20% said their physical health had suffered

  • 32% reported a psychological impact

  • 42% were affected financially

  • 47% experienced an emotional impact, including feeling embarrassed, angry or ashamed

  • 23% of all victims said they had experienced anxiety, 12% experienced disturbed sleep and 11% experienced depression as a result of the online fraud.

The survey also shows that just over half of victims reported the fraud to either the police or Action Fraud. Victims were more likely to contact their bank (41%) than to go to the police (32%) or Action Fraud (28%), the UK’s national fraud reporting centre.

Report author, Crest Advisory Strategy and Insight Manager Amber Evans, said:

“With this research, we set out to establish a more comprehensive and meaningful understanding of the nature of online fraud, providing a basis for more targeted measures to protect people against the harms of online fraud.”

“Our findings contrast with the widely held perception that online fraud is a victimless crime, more often targeted at the elderly. We found, instead, that online fraud is affecting people of all ages and can have a clear emotional and psychological impact on victims.”

“Over one fifth of those surveyed said they had been a victim of online fraud – which is higher than the latest Crime Survey of England and Wales figures. This survey suggests that fraud victimisation may be more prevalent, and the impact more significant, than the existing data suggest.”

The research also included the first ever survey into businesses about online fraud. The polling, conducted by WALR, surveyed 752 small to medium businesses (SMEs) online, weighted to ensure a representative sample across England and Wales.

Crest Advisory found:

  • 43% of the SME sample were concerned about online fraud, followed by 40% concerned about theft and burglary

  • 25 percent of our SME sample had been victims of online fraud.

A final and more extensive victims report, including an evidence review and qualitative and qualitative research, will be released in 2024.


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