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There has been a sharp increase in fraud and computer misuse offences in England and Wales during the lockdown, the Office for National Statistics reported.

Government restrictions to limit social contact have sharply reduced other types of crime, the Telephone Crime Survey for England and Wales (TCSEW) indicated a 36% increase in fraud and computer misuse offences compared with the year ending March 2019 (i.e. pre-pandemic).

TCSEW total crime excluding fraud and computer misuse decreased by 19% compared with the year ending March 2019. This was largely driven by substantial decreases in theft offences (20%), the ONS said.

Over the equivalent time period, total police recorded crime excluding fraud and computer misuse decreased by 13%.

“The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a significant impact on patterns of crime. There were large decreases in theft offences, such as domestic burglary and theft from the person, as more people stayed at home and limited their social contact,” said Billy Gazard, a statistician who works at the Office for National Statistics Centre for Crime and Justice.

“At the same time, there were substantial increases in fraud and computer misuse offences such as hacking, as fraudsters took advantage of behavioural changes during the pandemic, such as increased online shopping,” he added.