One in 10 suffering fraud or cyber crime, figures show
Nearly six million fraud and cyber crimes are perpetrated every year, with one in 10 people falling victim to scams, new figures reveal.
The most authoritative official estimate of the scale of the offences published so far suggests the overall crime rate could be almost double the level previously reported.
Questions on the two categories were added to the Crime Survey for England and Wales for the first time from October.
Early findings show about 3.8 million fraud and two million computer misuse offences were experienced by victims in the year before interview.
These figures are separate from the main crime count drawn from the survey, which showed 6.3 million incidents against adults in the year ending in March - a 6% fall.
The Office for National Statistics said the fraud and cyber crime figures remain "experimental" but it is intending to incorporate them into the headline total from next year.
Statisticians said the estimates indicate that one in 10 adults was a victim of at least one fraud or computer misuse offence in the last year.
Fraud is now the most common crime likely to be experienced by the general population. People are 20 times more likely to be a victim of fraud than robbery, and 10 times more likely to suffer fraud than theft, the survey suggests.
John Flatley of the ONS said: "Together, these offences are similar in magnitude to the existing headline figures covering all other crime survey offences.
"However, it would be wrong to conclude that actual crime levels have doubled, since the survey previously did not cover these offences."
Around two-thirds of the two million computer misuse incidents involved a computer virus, while another 600,000 were related to "unauthorised access to personal information", including hacking.
The most common types of fraud were bank and credit account fraud, followed by "non-investment" fraud, such as scams related to online shopping.
Almost two-thirds of fraud incidents involved loss of money or goods to the victim. Where money was taken or stolen, in just under two-thirds of instances the victim lost less than £250.
Compared with other types of crime, the likelihood of being a victim of fraud is relatively evenly distributed across different groups in society, said Mark Bangs, deputy head of crime statistics at the ONS.
He added: "For example, those living in rural areas were just as likely to be a victim of fraud as those living in urban areas. Similarly, people living in the most deprived areas were no more likely to be victims than those in the least deprived areas."
Shadow policing minister Jack Dromey said the figures "shine a light on the true scale of crime in this country". He said: " Crime is not falling, crime is changing. You are more likely now to be mugged online than in the street."
Alex Neill, of consumer group Which?, said the "shocking scale of people hit by cyber crime and fraud" has been revealed for the first time.
Katy Worobec, director of Financial Fraud Action UK, said: " Banks work extremely hard to protect their customers and stopped £7 in every £10 of attempted fraud last year."
Policing minister Brandon Lewis insisted police reform "is working and crime is falling", adding: "As crime falls, we know that it is also changing. Fraud and cyber offences are not a new threat and the Government has been working to get ahead of the game, committing to spend £1.9 billion on cyber security and cyber crime over the next five years."
Chief Constable Jeff Farrar, National Police Chiefs' Council lead for crime recording, said: " The estimated 3.8 million fraud and 2 million computer misuse offences, the significant increase in harassment offences, including revenge porn, and continuing rises in recorded sexual offences and domestic abuse recorded exemplify the changing and increasing demands on policing."