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Fraud losses 'cost the UK 30bn a year'

22 January 10 10:47 GMT

Fraud - including scams, online theft, insurance cheats and tax fraud - costs the UK £30bn a year, according to an official estimate.

The National Fraud Authority (NFA) has calculated the figure for the first time and said it equated to £621 per adult in the UK.

Some 58% of fraud was in the public sector, at a cost of £17bn, it added.

It said the losses were paid for through taxes and rising prices of products and services.

The highest sector was losses from tax fraud - estimated at £15.2bn - although this was only 3% of tax liabilities, the NFA said.

According to the NFA, which is part of the UK Attorney General's Office, some 31% of losses came in the private sector, with the financial services sector suffering the biggest hit.

It lost an estimated £3.8bn, including £1bn in mortgage fraud. This has prompted the City watchdog, the Financial Services Authority, to take a tougher stance against the crime, with a number of brokers having been fined and banned from the industry.

Another £2bn was lost to insurance fraud, while the remainder came from fraudsters targeting online banking, cheques, and plastic cards.

The consumer goods industry lost an estimated £1.3bn a year. Manufacturing suffered losses of £1bn a year, and technology, media and telecommunications lost £948m.

Consumers have also been tricked out of an estimated £3.5bn a year in share, lottery and loan scams. Some 12% of all fraud was suffered by individual consumers.

Prevention

Previous estimates had suggested the total fraud level was much lower, with one report by senior police officers in 2007 saying that the figure was about £13bn.

"Although the figure appears on the face of it far greater than the previous estimate, we know this is because we have included many additional figures that other studies have not," said NFA chief executive Bernard Herdan.

"With this vital information, we can develop clearer priorities to prevent, detect and deter fraudsters. We will use the data to help identify those areas of fraud that cause the most harm to the UK economy.

"Reducing the cost of fraud is important but, even more significantly, I want to stop more people from becoming victims. I have seen first-hand the devastating effects fraud can have. It destroys lives and livelihoods."

Consumers are being encouraged to take preventative measures to avoid becoming the victims of mass-marketing scams.

Advice line Consumer Direct suggested that taking time over any deal would help, but anything that appeared too good to be true, usually was.

People should ensure that they have as much contact information as possible for any trader they are dealing with, such as a full postal address and landline telephone number.

If ordering on the internet, consumers should follow basic security measures, such as taking care when offering bank details.

Purchases of more than £100 receive extra protection if the buyer uses a credit card.

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