More than 20,000 fraud and cyber crimes committed every day, estimates show
More than 20,000 fraud and cyber crimes are perpetrated every day, the first official estimates of the scale of the offences in the UK suggest.
Research found there were 5.1 million incidents of fraud in England and Wales in the last year, with 3.8 million victims. It indicates the category is the now most common form of crime.
In addition, there were an estimated 2.5 million incidents which fall under the Computer Misuse Act, such as hacking attacks.
The data also suggest that on average one in 12 adults have experienced fraud and one in 22 is a victim of cyber fraud.
The disclosures prompted claims that the overall crime count is substantially higher than previously thought, while police said they showed how the internet is "changing the nature of crime".
Statisticians stressed that the figures for the categories are preliminary but the number of fraud incidents is nearly a third higher than theft offences - the highest category in the established Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) at 3.9 million.
The survey showed that overall crime in the 12 months to June has fallen by 8% from last year with an estimated 6.5 million offences - the lowest level since records started in 1981.
If the fraud and cyber estimates were added to the CSEW tally, this means a total of 14.1 million crimes - leading to suggestions of a doubling in the rate.
However, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) cautioned against combining the two sets of figures, saying the fraud and cyber data are "experimental" and based on a much smaller sample.
A spokesman said: "One is a proven set of national statistics and the other is not."
More than half of fraud and cyber crime victims suffered financial loss, the survey found. Of that number, 78% received financial compensation and 62% were fully reimbursed.
The most common cyber offences involved victims' devices being infected by a virus, while the category also included hacking of emails and social media accounts.
The ONS said the new estimates, based on interviews carried out between May and August, do not show if occurrences of fraud and cyber crime are going up or down.
Spokesman Glen Watson said: " Although we estimate that there were more than seven million fraud and computer misuse incidents in the past year, this does not necessarily imply a recent rise in crime as the new measures bring into scope a large volume of offences not previously included in the Crime Survey for England and Wales.
"Furthermore, these new estimates should be seen in the context of a reduction over the past 20 years in the more traditional forms of crime, from 19 million incidents a year in 1995 to under seven million a year today."
Crime Minister Mike Penning insisted crime rates are falling because of police reforms.
"Crime is falling and it is also changing, and we are committed to tackling fraud and cyber crime," he added.
"This is not a new threat and the Government has been working to get ahead of the game."
Separate police recorded crime figures showed an increase of 5% with 4.3 million incidents.
This included a 41% jump in sexual offences, including rape, which are now at the highest level since comparable records began in 2002.
There was a 25% rise in violence against the person crimes logged by forces. Homicide, which includes murder, was at the highest level for four years.
Mr Penning said these rises reflect improvements in recording practice, "rather than an increase in itself".
Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham claimed the figures "may give the public false reassurance and do not tell the full story".
He said: " Police recorded crime is rising with the biggest increases coming in some of the most serious areas.
"Crime has changed and moved online in recent years but the official figures have still not caught up with that.
"The ONS has estimated there have been 5.1 million incidents of fraud and when they are added in in the next survey, the picture will look very different indeed."