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Assessing the trends, scale and nature of economic cybercrimes: overview and Issues

In Cybercrimes, Cybercriminals and Their Policing, in Crime, Law and Social Change

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Trends in police-recorded and (where they exist) household survey-measured cybercrimes for economic gain are reviewed in a range of developed countries – Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and the US - and their implications for criminal policy are considered. The datasets indicate a substantial rise in online fraud – though one that is lower than the rise in online shopping and other ‘routine activity’ indicators - but it is not obvious whether this is just displacement for the fall in household and automobile property crime, nor how much overlap there is between the offenders and past ‘offline’ offenders. Nor do the data indicate whether the frauds result from insiders or outsiders, or are collusive. The direct and indirect costs of cyberfrauds are examined, and it is concluded that there is no satisfactory basis for the larger estimates of cost, but it is undeniable that those costs are large enough to merit concern. There remains a problem of what metrics are appropriate for judging the threat and harm from cybercrimes, and their impact on national and human security. There is not a sharp division between these larger national security issues and cyber attacks on banks, businesses, and the spear phishing of individuals with important knowledge of system vulnerabilities in the public or the private sector. Rather there is a punctuated continuum in the interplay between private, corporate governmental and wider social risks.

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  1. See further,

  2. The author is a member of the Europol iOCTA and SOCTA advisory groups.

  3. The author must declare an interest, as an independent member of the UK Statistics Commission’s Crime Statistics Advisory Committee, and a member of Europol’s Internet-related Organised Crime Threat Assessment Advisory Group.

  4. Reyns [11] connects BCS 2008/9 data on identity fraud to routine activity indicators, showing higher risk for high-income households and people active online.

  5. This is a somewhat contentious area, as alleged victim negligence (for example in writing down their PIN or giving it to someone else for convenience) can be a reason for refusal of reimbursement which is defended by the banks but resented by cardholders and contested by some academic critics of bank processes.

  6. This has been the subject of several radio consumer programmes and City of London police warnings. To include the telephone in an aggregated count of ICT may be unhelpful: the fraudsters may have used VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) to reduce criminal running costs and traceability. But it is harder to disguise sex, age and ethnicity if there is human communication compared with email and text.

  7. see also van Wilsem’s [19, 20] representative household panel, so more people per household are allowed to participate. It is smaller than the Domenic survey, but it is a longitudinal sample. Specific online behaviours predicted specific online victimization types (e.g., using social media predicted only harassment and not hacking).


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Correspondence to Michael Levi.

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Levi, M. Assessing the trends, scale and nature of economic cybercrimes: overview and Issues. Crime Law Soc Change 67, 3–20 (2017).

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