EU data protection man on laptop


Cyber-crooks are being allowed to act with impunity as a wave of internet crime worth £100m a year hits the retail sector, according to a new report.

The BRC’s Retail Crime Survey shows more than half of retail fraud is now being committed online.

The findings, which come just three months after Tesco was rocked by scandal after cyber-criminals stole money from thousands of accounts, reveal the attack on the UK’s biggest retailer as just the tip of the iceberg.

The BRC said ever-more sophisticated forms of crime were being used against retailers, including phishing, theft of consumer data and a host of other increasingly elaborate scams.

Crimes such as hacking and data breaches represented 5% of the total direct cost of crime to retail businesses - or £36m a year.

But with 53% of fraud enabled online, the figure jumped to 15% of the total cost of crime, or £100m.

Of those who responded to the survey, 36% said online crime had risen in the past year, while 50% cited cyber-attacks as one of the most significant future threats (in contrast to just 14% last year).

While more than half of businesses in the survey felt the government was doing a good job to try to combat cyber-crime, thanks to developments such as the National Cyber Security Centre, it branded the UK’s fraud reporting system, known as Action Fraud, as “unfit for purpose”. More than half of respondents said it was either ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.

The BRC said there was an urgent need for a policy debate on the state of digital policing and has come up with its own promise to publish a new cyber-security toolkit for retailers in March this year

“These figures reflect a deeply concerning trend,” said BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson.

“A significant aspect of the cyber-security challenge for retailers is the attractiveness of customer data from the point of view of criminals, many of whom operate outside UK borders but can nevertheless gain relatively easy access to UK digital networks.

“Retailers are doing everything possible to ensure that staff members and customers are safe and protected. But this rising tide should be stemmed through even stronger co-operation between industry, the government, law enforcement and the private security industry.”

As well as the increase in online crime, the report also shows a rising tide of violence and abuse against staff, with a 40% increase in incidents in past year.

The overall number of retail crimes committed has risen to 3.6 million, with the direct financial cost of crime to the retail industry reaching £660m in 2015-16.

Most retailers (56%) now feel that the police perform either poorly or very poorly in tackling the crime that they experience - a deterioration since last year, when the figure was 43%.

The survey sample covered by the report covered 37% of the retail industry by turnover and 35% by staff, or more than 1.1 million employees.