Star comment: Fraud continues despite pandemic

The scourge of fraud continues unabated.

The number of victims has risen inexorably during the pandemic as nefarious individuals find new ways to scam innocent victims.

We are becoming a nation weighed down by both casual and organised criminality as gangs find ever-more pernicious ways to prey on the vulnerable.

Many millions are being lost to criminals through bogus mail scams and now through non-existent investment opportunities. People on dating websites are the latest to be targeted. While they try to put their best foot forward and present themselves as open, companiable and trusting, those on the other end of the screen are in fact plotting to take their savings.

It is yet another example of fraud on the internet. It shows how vulnerable we can be and also how powerless it appears online platforms and the authorities to deal with it. It appears this type of fraud has exploded during the pandemic, but there does not appear to be a rush of action to tackle it. Rather like the new rules on social distancing, it seems the key is for people to take personal responsibility. The key rule is to be suspicious of everyone you may come across online and never hand over money.

Fraud is frequently viewed as a crime that affects the elderly. However, the latest type of crime targets a younger cohort, including many people who are in their 30s and a considerable number a decade older.

Losses are substantial as people hand over sums that average around £15,000, while finding themselves both unlucky in love and out of pocket.

While the vast majority of investments offered are in cryptocurrency, victims have also handed over money believing they are investing in other commodities. Their personal data is frequently compromised and there is a huge price to pay in terms of the emotional fall out. People find themselves traumatised and wary of moving forward in their lives. The issues surrounding our digital culture must be tackled. There is a long way to go. Too often, the web feels like the Wild West and more must be done.

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