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One in seven (14% of) British adults has committed a type of consumer fraud, new report shows

17 July 2019
  • All types of fraud are estimated to cost the UK economy around £190bn
  • ‘Fronting’ revealed to be the most common type of fraud committed by British public, with 6% of British adults saying they have committed it
  • ‘Fronting’ regarded as being “reasonable” by four in ten (39%) Britons
  • Younger people more likely to carry out fraud, with one in five (21%) of those aged 18-34 saying they have committed at least one form of first-party fraud

Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, has today released a report in conjunction with WPI Economics, showing one in seven (14%) British adults have committed one or more types of consumer fraud, while two in three (66%) know someone who has.

There are many types of first-party fraud – including:

  • Fronting – setting up a service in someone else’s name to save money, for example young drivers taking out car insurance under their parent’s name, nominating themselves as a named driver
  • Deshopping – buying items, usually clothing, with the intention of using/wearing them before returning them for a full refund
  • Money muling – agreeing to transfer illegal funds to a third-party from their bank account, generally keeping a share for themselves
  • Claimed non-delivery – ordering goods online and falsely claiming they haven’t been delivered to get a refund

The most common type of consumer fraud committed by the British public is ‘fronting’ (6%), closely followed by ‘deshopping’, which 1 in 20 (5%) admit to carrying out.

Attitudes towards first party fraud

Alarmingly, many Britons consider some types of consumer fraud as reasonable, with the highest proportion (39%) seeing ‘fronting’ as reasonable. However, the consequences of committing this type of fraud could see individuals driving without valid insurance, and in some cases, result in a criminal record.

Interestingly, ‘money muling’ is considered reasonable by one in five (22%) Britons, the consequences of which could result in individuals unable to open a bank account and obtain a mortgage, as well as a potential prison sentence.

Demographics of consumer fraud

The research revealed that younger people were more likely to take part in fraudulent activity, with 21% of 18-34 year olds admitting they have committed first-party fraud, compared to only 6% of people aged over 65.

Prevention key to reducing fraud

The report found that companies are more likely to invest their energy into detection and prosecution of consumer fraud, rather than prevention. This is despite the fact that detection can be problematic, and prevention is generally regarded to be more effective. The report argues that efforts to reduce fraud would be better directed towards awareness campaigns focused on educating consumers about different types of fraud and their consequences, such as criminal records, fines, or difficulties in obtaining banking and credit facilities.

Chief Executive Officer of Cifas, Mike Haley, says: ‘It’s surprising how common fraud is among British consumers, and – perhaps even more worryingly – accepted by many people.

‘The consequences of committing ‘harmless’ frauds such as buying shoes to wear for a night before returning them, or adding their parent as a main driver for cheaper insurance can be potentially life-changing and, in some cases, result in a criminal record

‘Businesses and consumers have a responsibility to raise awareness of the consequences of committing fraud, and retailers and service providers are in a unique position to do this using their brand authority and established communication channels.’

Matthew Oakley, Director of WPI Economics, says: ‘It is shocking that one in seven British adults admit to having committed first-party fraud.

‘That many people also see this as reasonable highlights the lack of understanding of fraud as a criminal and harmful act.

‘This report shines a light on some of the routes to people committing fraud and highlights how industry can work together to tackle these; in particular by making sure that fewer people see fraud as reasonable and that the opportunities to commit fraud are reduced.’


For more information, please contact:

Ross Stebbing
T: +44 (0)20 067 0008

Notes to editors

Methodology: ComRes interviewed 2,070 British adults online between the 27th and 28th of March 2019. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of British adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Population level figures are derived from applying percentages from ComRes research to estimates of the GB adult population, taken from ONS.

About Cifas

Cifas exists to prevent fraud and financial crime. We are an independent, not-for-profit membership organisation that protects businesses and individuals through effective and secure data and intelligence sharing between the private, public and third sectors. In 2017, Cifas member organisations prevented over £1 billion of fraud losses.

Cifas data is included in the Office of National Statistics England and Wales Crime Statistics of police recorded crime. Every day, we send approximately 800 fraud cases to the City of London Police for potential investigation. Cifas also offers Protective Registration for individuals whose identities are at risk of being used fraudulently, for instance after a burglary. We also run a scheme called Protecting the Vulnerable, offered free of charge to local authorities to protect those under the care of Court Deputies who are unable to access financial products and whose identities may be at risk.

About WPI Economics

WPI Economics is a specialist economics and public policy consultancy. We provide a range of public, private and charitable clients with research, modelling and advice to influence and deliver better outcomes through improved public policy design and delivery. You can find out more about our work at

Posted by: Cifas Press Team

Mark Courtney joins cifas as new Chief Product Officer

28 August 2019

Mark has a wealth of expertise in fraud, identity verification and identity assurance, having worked globally across multiple sectors in the space. In his role at Cifas, he will work with the team to develop its existing product suite, as well as build future propositions for new and existing markets.


Fraud continues ‘inexorable’ rise in the UK as new annual figures show 6% increase

21 June 2019

Cifas, the UK’s fraud prevention service, today paints an alarming picture of fraud in the UK with the release of Fraudscape, the annual publication of its data that identifies and analyses the country’s fraud trends based on 323,660 cases of fraudulent conduct recorded in 2018. The data, from over 470 organisations, including major UK brands from across the sectors, is one of the most comprehensive pictures of fraud and fraudulent attempts in the UK.

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Posted by: Cifas Press Team

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