NEW data shows that online fraud has increased across North Wales since the nation went into lockdown last year.
Figures obtained by the Leader show the rise in reports from 2019 reveal that scammers that hide behind a computer screen were reported to North Wales Police on 190 occasions.
This includes fraudulent offences linked to online banking and social media/email hacking to name a few.
The 2019 figures show that general fraud was higher than 2020 general fraud – with 1,514 compared to 1,083 respectively
However, in 2020, as the nation went into lockdown and become more connected to the online world, scammers appeared to make the shift to virtual fraud as the offences rose to 217 reports over the year.
The top form of online fraud in 2020 was social media/email hacking that accounted for almost a third (69 reports – 31.7 per cent) of all crimes across the 12-month period.
This was followed by fraud offences relating to online banking (32 reports – 14.75 per cent) and online shopping (19 reports – 8.76 per cent).
Dating scams also rose slightly over the lockdown – as people made 10 reports to the police about being conned online.
The Leader previously reported how this can happen easily after a woman in her 60s handed over thousands of pounds over a period of three and a half years.
The lady, who wished to remain anonymous, met the suspect on a dating website and the alarm was first raised by her bank due to the unusual activity on her account.
The woman was said to be “distraught” when she discovered she’d been scammed.
However, this is just the reported crimes – and the true scale may be much higher.
A spokesman for North Wales Police said: “Despite overall fraud reporting decreasing during 2020 the number of frauds committed online has increased. It is believed that this is as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A number of factors have contributed to the increase such as people spending more time online at home using social media or shopping, romance scammers specifically targeting those who are isolated or lonely and victims seeking investment opportunities to make the most of their finances.
“Scammers are using increasingly sophisticated technology to commit fraud as it allows them to operate from anywhere in the world whilst remaining anonymous. Because of this it is crucial that everyone takes steps to protect themselves from fraud.”
The force is urging residents to follow advice from the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to protect their money and personal information:
• Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
• Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
• Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.