More than 22,000 fraud investigations were dropped by police last year despite a surge in online scams during the coronavirus pandemic, official figures have revealed.

The number of cases reported to Action Fraud, the UK’s fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, soared by a third as criminals exploited the Covid-19 pandemic to target victims online.

Some 428,489 offences were reported but an analysis of Home Office figures found that only 52,000 cases were closed in 2020-21.

Fewer than 5,000 — 9 per cent — resulted in a suspect being charged. In contrast, 22,420 fraud cases were closed without a suspect being identified.

Impersonation, romance and investment frauds had the largest increase last year, but those relating to shopping and deliveries carried out online, over the phone

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