Improving cybercrime reporting in Scotland: a systematic literature review

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Background: The UK system for reporting economic cybercrime is called Action Fraud (AF). AF has been found to prioritise high value and low volume crimes. Therefore, people who have been scammed out of less than £100 000 are less likely to have their crime investigated via AF. Consequently, Scotland severed its ties with AF and proceeded to develop its own systems for reporting low value and high-volume crimes. Another problem with AF was that its reports were inaccurate and incomplete. Interestingly, since the 1930s the compilation and investigation of crime reports has always suffered from inaccuracies and discrepancies. This pattern has not been reversed by rapid technological development. Instead, the trend is preserved, not just in the UK, but across the globe.
Aim: An exploration of how to improve cybercrime reporting in Scotland was implemented via a systematic literature review the results of which will inform upcoming fieldwork. Due to the lack of data on Scotland, frequent extrapolations were conducted from both the UK and the West. The research questions were: 1. What is known about cybercrime in the UK to date? 2. What is known about cybercrime victims in the UK to date? 3. What is known about cybercrime reporting to date?
Method and Analysis: The answers were retrieved by combining Boolean variables with keywords into Scopus, Web of Science and ProQuest. This resulted in the inclusion of 100 peer-reviewed articles (after the exclusion of unsuitable ones). The articles were analysed using Inductive thematic analysis (ITA). The underlying principle of ITA is based on data immersion to identify the themes within. This analysis revealed a common trend, a novel taxonomy, and an original conclusion.
Results: The common trend is that of responsibilisation, which is the shifting of responsibility for policing cybercrime from the government onto the citizens and private sector. For example, the government educating citizens about the risks of cybercrime and disengaging with them thereafter is a case of responsibilisation. This is because the government sees it as the victims’ responsibility to follow its advice. One problem of responsibilisation in cybercrime is that if one person is attacked, then many computers can become infected through their error. Therefore, the government should step-up to the task of protecting its citizens. The novel taxonomy is for classifying cybercrime reporting systems according to three pillars, which I referred to as Human-To-Human (H2H), Human-To-Machine (H2M) and Machine-To-Machine (M2M). The advantage of this classification is parsimony, the disadvantage is reductionism. The risk of reductionism applies specifically to crimes that sit in between pillars.
Conclusion: To improve cybercrime reporting in Scotland, the process needs to be treated also as a social one rather than a purely mathematical one. This can be achieved by engaging with psychological principles of how emotionally charged social interactions are encoded into memory. Understanding memory will help the police record cybercrime reports in an effective way. This research will impact society because it serves as a foundation for fieldwork with victims of cybercrime and the police tasked with those investigations. The results of the upcoming fieldwork will serve to inform national guidance on how to improve the reporting of cybercrime, which will reduce it and give victims living in Scotland a sense of closure.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDoctoral School Multidisciplinary Symposium 2022
Subtitle of host publicationBook of Abstracts
Place of PublicationGlasgow
PublisherUniversity of Strathclyde
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2022


  • economic cybercrime
  • responsibilisation
  • taxonomies
  • Scotland
  • literature review


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