An empirical typology of online fraud


In 2022-2023, the public in England and Wales reported experiencing 3.5 million fraud offences, and a total of 1.1 million offences were reported to the police by the public and businesses. Fraud is a volume crime that is highly diverse in terms of the social, commercial, and financial settings in which it occurs, the methods and technologies employed by offenders, the victims who are targeted, and the impact and risks that are experienced. The police and partner organisations face real challenges in understanding the nature of the fraud problem and the subsequent demand for public services that include law enforcement, victim support and protection, and wider crime prevention.

The police have national data systems for collating fraud data from victims, and robust analysis of this data is critical to developing a strategic understanding of the fraud problem and related demands. In crime recording there are 48 categories of fraud offences that reflect the different methods used (e.g., Ponzi investment fraud), commercial settings (e.g. door to door sales and online shopping fraud), or the diverse victims and sectors that are impacted (e.g. retail and charity fraud).  These categories do not differentiate frauds by factors such as harm, seriousness, risk, or vulnerability, which are central to informing which frauds should be prioritised and how police resources should be allocated. It is clear that the police and partner organisations require a typology of fraud to guide action.


This research seeks to develop an empirical evidence base on the nature of fraud reported to the police, the challenges in translating this information into action, and to scope new approaches for organising our knowledge and data on fraud to drive effective responses. The study will take a mixed methods approach, integrating evidence from the following methodologies:

  • Quantitative analysis of fraud data to produce a data-driven typology of fraud.
  • Semi-structured interviews with practitioners in the police, public and private sector organisations which will explore the key concepts for understanding fraud as a demand for service.
  • A review of the published literature on the nature of fraud and fraud typologies.

Project team

Michael Skidmore

Felicity O’Connell

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