The British Crime Survey (BCS) is a nationally representative survey of households in England and Wales. Its primary purpose is to estimate levels of crime committed against the population of private households and adults living in such households. As such, the survey cannot estimate crimes committed against those outside the scope of the survey, such as commercial and public sector bodies.
The BCS provides a measure of fraud (including identity fraud) committed against individuals in private households, which is important because it captures unreported incidents. However, fraud is a complex area and there are conceptual difficulties around its definition and measurement in surveys. On the one hand, some members of the public who had been victims of poor service may perceive themselves to have been de-frauded, when this is not the case in law, whereas many of those who had been genuine victims of fraud may not be aware of the fact.
A special module of questions has been included in the BCS in recent years focusing on credit and debit card, internet and identity fraud. However, fraud offences are not currently included within the main crime count of the BCS.
The most recent results have been reported in the Home Office Statistical Bulletin 11/07 ‘Crime in England and Wales 2006/2007’. More detailed figures can be found in the Home Office Online Report 10/07 ‘Mobile phone theft, plastic card and identity fraud: Findings from the 2005/06 British Crime Survey’. New questions have recently been developed, in the card and ID fraud module currently being run within the BCS, and these will be reviewed before continuing inclusion in the 2008/09 BCS.
Information about fraud is included on a number of Government websites including that of the Home Office, which also created and maintains a mini site devoted to fraud within the Government’s Crime Reduction Website. The Get Safe Online website, a joint Government and private sector initiative, provides advice to help computer users stay safe online and includes information about fraud. The Home Office has also produced, in conjunction with the banking industry, a leaflet to help prevent plastic card fraud. The leaflet was distributed to police forces and Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships and is available on the Home Office website.
The cross Whitehall review of fraud which reported last year recommended establishing a National Fraud Strategic Authority (NFSA) which will implement a national strategy on fraud. Key actions for the NFSA will be to raise the profile of fraud and to co-ordinate the response to it. A measurement will also be established within the NFSA to measure the national extent of fraud based on robust measurement methodologies.