The novels of Charles Dickens are replete with dodgy characters. So what has changed in 150 years? Not that much. Norwich Union report that the cost of fraud to the nation rose to nearly £16bn last year, or £650 per household. The BBC story gives an example of the inventive nature of these latter day rogues:
The link between fraud and organised crime is revealed by the example of a drugs gang in a big English city. The criminals have contrived hundreds of car accidents in which they lured members of the public to crash into the gang's cars.
"The scale of this operation is enormous," Chris Hill said. "This gang had induced more than 400 accidents in the course of a year.
Meanwhile The Register reports the UK 'full of fraudsters', with nearly half of people quizzed in a survey admitting to forgery and one in ten to low level identity fraud.
A quarter of 1,000 Britons polled in a survey by document and identity verification firm TSSI confessed to exaggerating their educational qualifications to gain employment. One in ten of those quizzed by TSSI admitted they had misused ID or access control systems by impersonating someone else or had assisted someone else to do so, while a third (32 per cent) admitted conning their way past security personnel. One in five (21 per cent) owned up to having used fake identity cards.
"Identity fraud is now a major risk to consumers, yet our study shows that low level identity abuse and fraud is commonplace to the extent that it is almost becoming socially acceptable," said Danny Chapchal, TSSI's executive chairman.
Nearly half (45 per cent) of Brits polled in the survey admitted to some kind of forgery. ID cards were by far the most popular item, with 18 per cent admitting to forging these. Other items included doctors notes (five per cent); fake letters on company letterhead (four per cent); reference letters (four per cent); travel tickets (two per cent); concert tickets (one per cent); and tickets for sporting events (one per cent).
Just over one in ten people (12 per cent) owned up to impersonating someone else over email. Seven per cent confessed to assuming another person’s identity through forging their signature on letters or cheques. Meanwhile one in seven (14 per cent) confessed to spying on people entering PINs, pass codes and passwords.
A nation of swindlers, con artists, fraudsters and charlatans? You bet. Dickens was right.
The Register points out, as I should, that TSSI's Dishonest Britain report (which can be downloaded here) is self interested.
TSSI has a vested interest here, of course, in talking up the scope of the very dishonesty among the general public its technology is designed to addresses. Nonetheless we can't help but be impressed by the ability of its researchers to elicit admissions from random punters in train stations that might (were they not anonymous) result in an extended stay at Her Majesty's pleasure.