MORE young adults are falling victim to online shopping scams than the elderly in the Northumbria Police force area, warns Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness.

In the last year, younger people have been disproportionately affected by online shopping scams with 37 per cent of complaints across Tyne and Wear and Northumberland being made by people aged 20 to 39. Latest figures from Action Fraud also show the age range reporting the most online scams in Northumbria is 20 to 29.

As a result of the pandemic and people spending more time online, online fraud in the Northumbria area has seen an overall increase of 23% in the 6 months to April 2021, compared to the 6 months to November 2020.

These figures will be discussed at this Tuesday’s Police and Crime Panel as part of a high level report from the Police Commissioner on her Fighting Crime priority.

Kim McGuinness is urging people of all ages to remain vigilant around online scams and wants to encourage parents, teachers and carers to have conversations with young people around the risks as we head into the summer holidays when they spend more time browsing the internet.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “There’s this thinking that as we get older we become more vulnerable to fraud, well that’s not always the case. We often hear about older people being conned and targeted by emails or shopping deals but the numbers paint a different picture. Younger generations – the digital natives who’ve grown up with the technology – are becoming the prime targets. People of all ages really can get taken in by these scammers and exploited – the scammers can be very clever, very manipulative and it’s regardless of age.”

During the pandemic, online fraud increased by a third in the UK and the category of fraud that grew the fastest during this time was scams over phone and text. Messages such as those from fraudulent couriers that ask for administrative fees to deliver non-existent parcels surged by 83 per cent in the past year.

PCC McGuinness added: “We’ve heard the pandemic called many things – the Year of the Scammer being one of them. With more people spending time at home, so much of life went digital and this has delivered a devastating surge in scams with cruel criminals preying on their victims during what has been a vulnerable time for many. It can be easy to succumb to the influence of others – the fraudsters selling the counterfeit goods, the dream holidays, the life-changing jobs. People often don’t talk about it or even report it as they feel embarrassed or foolish and they shouldn’t. If reported to Action Fraud, offenders can be brought to justice and it can stop it from happening to anyone else.”

She added: “Northumbria Police has a Complex Fraud Team which works closely with the three north east forces and NERSOU as well as national bodies. Obviously this type of crime ignores all borders, and so the response has to be part of a co-ordinated national approach, and Northumbria Police plays a strong part in this.

“Cyber-related crimes are a growing threat and we want to raise awareness of this so we will be looking at running some dedicated cyber fraud campaigns to enhance the force’s investigation of these crimes going forwards.”