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Who suffers fraud? Understanding the fraud victim landscape

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Authors: Sarah Poppleton, Kitty Lymperopoulou, Julian Molina


Fraud is huge and can also be a very high harm offence. To get to grips with the scale and nature of victimisation for this huge and unwieldy area of crime, researchers mapped out the landscape of fraud victimisation to understand how we might break down the population of fraud victims into meaningful groups and understand what characterises these groups, as a precursor to understanding their support needs.

Drawing on data from the 2017/18 and 2018/19 Crime Survey for England & Wales (CSEW), researchers used an analytical technique to segment the population of fraud victims into a set of nine mutually exclusive groups or clusters. This is not the first time this has been done, but it is the first time it has been done with CSEW data, which encompasses the whole fraud victim population, not just those who report or who respond to a less representative survey. It is a starting point for understanding everyone’s needs, not just the needs of a minority.

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The Victims’ Commissioner for England & Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, said:

“Despite the prevalence of fraud, when we think of the word ‘victim’, fraud is probably not one of the first crimes that springs to mind. Yet in high-harm fraud cases, victims frequently suffer deeply.

“We know that the police response to fraud, though getting better, is still not good enough. But it’s not just the investigative response to fraud that needs attention. We need to know how well the overwhelming majority of fraud victims – who will not get a criminal justice outcome – are being supported. Many victims seem likely to be falling through the support net and my inbox bears testimony to this: I frequently receive scores of letters and emails from victims of fraud. Most experience little to no victim care.”

Diana Fawcett, Chief Executive of Victim Support, said:

“We welcome this timely and detailed report from the Victims’ Commissioner. Fraud is a highly prevalent crime that can impact victims in a number of different ways, including severely. This insight into the characteristics and vulnerabilities of victims is vital reading for those who work closely with people who have experienced fraud, and highlights the need for specialist support for victims.”