Case Studies

Fraud response report

by Mark Rowe

The police and official response to fraud is inconsistent and isn’t communicated well – most victims of fraud are not receiving the level of service they deserve, according to a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

The April 2018 print issue of Professional Security magazine featured an accusation that the Action Fraud official reporting line was on purpose making it hard for victims to report fraud, so that less crime was recorded. The inspectors’ report appears to confirm that police are indeed doing that; ‘some [unnamed] forces have set up teams to suppress demand to match capacity’.

Last year the inspectors looked at 11 police forces, besides the National Crime Agency, national reporting centre Action Fraud, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and European Union policing agency Europol.

The inspectors found:

– ‘a lack of proactive targeting of fraudsters’;
– little evidence of forces reviewing ‘what works’;
– little evidence of resources being available to disrupt or prevent fraud;
– little evidence of forces seeking victim satisfaction information, nor much evidence of Action Fraud seeking feedback;
– victims can wait months before being told what will happen with their case;
– average call abandonment rate for Action Fraud for the 12 months to March 2018 was 37 percent (up on the previous year’s 34pc);
– average call waiting time rose to 16 minutes last year;
– organised crime groups whose primary offence was fraud were generally not being mapped;
– in one case two regions and a force investigated the same crime group, without knowing;
– police response to fraud is inconsistent, ‘irrespective of the nature of the victim being an individual, business or public sector’. This makes work for police;
– victims were often not given fraud prevention advice when reporting fraud;
– some police forces had no dedicated fraud team.

For the full 108-page report visit the inspectorate website.


HM Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr said: “In a time of competing priorities for the police service, we understand that police leaders have difficult decisions to make. But during this inspection, one officer told us that fraud does not ‘bang, bleed or shout’ and, as a result, it is not considered a priority. Nonetheless, people are more likely to be victims of fraud than any other crime.

“The current model of local investigations supported by national functions is the right one. But processes need to be much more efficient, and performance must be managed to provide the best possible service that available resources will allow. We did find examples of local investigators providing victims with excellent service, but they are hampered by the lack of government or national policing strategies for tackling fraud. This has profound implications in how forces understand roles and responsibilities, how the public is protected from fraud and how victims of fraud are treated by police forces.

“Seven of the 11 forces we inspected were unable to provide basic data on the demand fraud places on them. Despite good evidence, some cases were simply being dropped, with staff believing their function was to reduce demand. While we acknowledge the pressures on the police service, this simply cannot be acceptable.

“So we are calling on the police service to make a choice. Either continue with the current inconsistent approach, which puts members of the public at a high risk of becoming victims of crime or look at ways to improve that will start to make a difference.

“The recommendations in this report highlight the areas where police forces and other organisations need to improve. In particular, there needs to be stronger strategic leadership to tackle fraud. Without that leadership the current situation will continue, with fraudsters feeling like they can act with impunity and victims feeling confused and disillusioned. This has to change.”

For the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, APCC lead for Fraud and Cyber Crime, Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire PCC said: “We know the impact that being a victim of fraud can have, both emotionally as well as financially, and this report highlights that a much more joined-up approach is needed to best tackle what is an evolving threat.

“Crime is increasingly moving online and fraud is no different – around half of all crimes now have an online element, which highlights the evolving nature of the threat officers are faced with. A national effort is required, involving police forces, partner agencies and Government to ensure that good practice is shared and built upon whilst avoiding the ‘postcode lottery’ we currently have, alongside prevention, which must become a key priority so those who are vulnerable do not become victims.

“More strategic working must also be resourced appropriately and we will continue to build a compelling case for increases in central police funding, to increase capacity and allow for further investment in crime prevention, in the forthcoming comprehensive spending review.”

Diane Abbott, Labour Shadow Home Secretary, said: “We all know someone who is a victim of fraud and how it can turn lives upside down. The government has failed to show leadership and create a clear strategy or support police forces to tackle this growing problem. Cuts to police numbers have also hindered their ability to investigate complex crimes such as fraud.

“We are in a situation where police are having to cherry pick between crimes, while the public is put at risk. Damaging Tory cuts are responsible for the failures of policing.”

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