Finally, we Brits are almost as good as America at something. Unfortunately, it's internet crime that we seem to have a talent for, so not exactly something we can be proud of. (Good job we've got some decent swimmers and cyclists to offset the bad press.)
According to the 2007 Internet Crime Report, a US-based study by the Internet Crime Complaint Centre (IC3) that charts the origin of online crime, the UK was the second-biggest nation contributing to online crime. We were responsible for a whopping 15.3 percent of offences in the US last year.
That puts us ahead of ‘internet crime hotbeds’ such as Nigeria (5.7 percent) and Romania (1.5 percent). The report also highlighted that online crime in the US hit an all-time high in 2007, with a 20 percent increase on the fraud reported in 2006.
And if that’s the case in the US, the UK won’t be far behind. Once upon a time, internet fraud was like an urban legend. You only knew about it because it happened to a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend and never a direct associate.
It's a different story these days. I have more friends and colleagues who have been victims of internet crime than those who haven’t. In fact, I’ve even experienced it myself.
Last year, some wannabe gangsta (whose hero was no doubt Ronnie Biggs and the great train robbers) thought he’d while away Easter Sunday by stealing my identity and debit card details and living the champagne lifestyle at my expense. He got through £1,500 in little over 24 hours. (It’s fair to say I was momentarily impressed because I’ve never managed to spend like that. )
But, very quickly, I got angry. Although it was hard to know who to get most angry at: my bank or the robber himself.
My bank felt my ire because they honoured more than 30 purchases, which I later discovered had been made in person and had been signed for - so much for the government’s claims that Chip and PIN ensures I never have to sign for a purchase again.
The thief got me extra annoyed because, instead of dinner at The Ivy and drinks at Bungalow 8, he bought a load of groceries, all from regular supermarkets. If it was me – I’d have headed straight to the Harrods Food Hall or M&S at least.
When it comes to purchasing online, I like to think I’m pretty security-savy. I only use secure sites identified by a padlock symbol, my passwords for every account are different and aren't related to my address, date of birth or family names and where possible I use Paypal or even my credit card so I have some kind of refund service if things do go wrong , yet I still became a victim.
I can’t say my bank didn’t take the fraud seriously, because they refunded every penny immediately, but they didn’t seem interested in pinpointing the source of the fraud – even when I highlighted where I thought the fraud had occurred.
But as the Internet Crime Report shows, online fraud is rising globally at a terrifying year-on-year rate. A solution needs to be found and quickly.