Understanding the rise of fraud in England and Wales through field theory: blip or flip?

Mark Button*, David William James Shepherd, Branislav Hock, Paul Gilmour

*Corresponding author for this work

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There is a debate at the highest levels of government and civil society over whether the rise in fraud is a blip exacerbated by the pandemic or a more fundamental transformation (or flip) in the structure of crime. This paper examines this debate by exploring the social factors influencing the level of fraud. It does so by conceptualising these factors as a fraud field, offering a novel way to visualise and consider vulnerability through the broad categories of ‘threats’ and ‘safeguards’ which influence levels of fraud. In doing so it offers the first attempt to map the wide range of ‘forces’ that influence levels of fraud and produces a mathematical expression of this, which will provide a basis for further debate, refinement and research. The threats include the myriad of opportunities, the large population of fraudsters, and the range of human and technology enablers that support the fraudsters. The principal safeguards that resist the fraud threat are culture, the law and the defensive resilience of individuals and organisations. Using the fraud field and official crime statistics, the paper argues that the safeguards are so structurally weak that the fraud epidemic is not a blip, but an opportunistic flip from traditional acquisitive crimes. The forces influencing levels of fraud mean high volumes of fraud will continue at the current levels or even accelerate further, unless there is a collective national strategy to strengthen the safeguards.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100012
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Economic Criminology
Early online date6 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


  • fraud
  • trends
  • vulnerabilities
  • enablers

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