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Call for police resources to focus on e-crime after news that it costs retailers £200m a year

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A retail body has called for police to focus more resources on e-crime after calculating that it cost retailers more than £200m last year.

The British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) first e-crime study found that digital fraud cost retailers at least £205.4m in 2011-12. Fraud itself cost £77.3m, while prevention costs and the legitimate business lost as a result of those measures accounted for the rest of the sum.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson, (pictured) said: “The rapid growth of e-commerce in the UK shows it offers great benefits for customers but also new opportunities for criminals.

“Online retailing has the potential for huge future commercial expansion but Government and police need to take e-crime more seriously if the sector is to maximise its contribution to national economic growth.

The BRC calculates that in proportion to the total value of sales, e-crime is twice as costly as overall retail crime. The total £205.4m represents 0.75% of the total £28bn spent online in 2011, whereas the £1.5bn lost to retail crime as a whole is 0.36% of the £303bn value of all retail sales.

Personal identification-related fraud accounted for losses of £20m, while card fraud resulted in losses of £15m. Refund frauds led to losses of £1.2m.

In additional, the study calculated that retailers lost £111.6m as a result of rejecting genuine business through the extra crime prevention measures that they introduced. It cites as an example the likelihood that extra online security measures may deter honest customers continuing with a transaction.

However 60% of retailers questioned said they were unlikely to report more than 10% of e-crimes to police.

Robertson said: “Retailers are investing significantly to protect customers and reduce the costs of e-crime but law makers and enforcers need to show a similarly strong commitment.

“This first comprehensive survey assessing the make-up and scale of e-crime shows where efforts need to be directed.

“Law enforcement and the Government need to work with us to develop a consistent, centralised method for reporting and investigating e-crime and resources must be directed to e-crime in line with the emerging threat. This will encourage retailers to report more offences and allow the police to better identify and combat new threats.”

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