The Government claims fraud shouldn’t be included when we discuss crime statistics. Tell that to its millions of victims.
10 February 2022
Speaking to the BBC this weekend, the Business Secretary claimed the Prime Minister was correct to leave out fraud when quoting statistics stating crime has decreased, as fraud isn’t a “crime that people experience in their day-to-day lives”. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In the latest Telephone-operated Crime Survey for England and Wales (TCSEW), figures reveal there were almost 5.1 million fraud offences in the year ending September 2021, a rise of 36% on pre-pandemic levels and represents almost half of all crime captured by the survey. Contrary to Kwasi Kwarteng’s claim, fraud is probably the crime that people are most likely to experience in their day-to-day lives.
Unfortunately, each of these crimes involves a victim who has had money stolen from their account, had their personal details compromised to be used in identity fraud, or has been convinced to invest their life savings into a fake investment opportunity. From their perspective, fraud is a deadly serious crime which can leave them feeling anxious or depressed. Tragically we also know of fraud victims who have taken their own lives after losing a large sum of money to a criminal.
One of the reasons we have seen such a rise in fraud, and possibly explains a decrease in other forms of criminality, is because fraud is viewed as an easy way to make money. Criminals currently operate under the impression they can perpetrate fraud online without them being identified, investigated or prosecuted, making this an attractive way for them to fund their illegal activities. We even see brazen fraudsters offering to help each other out in committing these offences online, such as by selling ‘fraud bibles’ or by offering the technology to spoof a bank’s phone number to target their victims. Research by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has proven the link between fraud and organised crime, with money raised by fraud often going on to fund further high harm crimes such as people and drug trafficking.
For far too long, fraud has been the Cinderella service, ignored by policy makers, and given a low priority by police, which has resulted in the current rash of scams targeting the public. As well as the rise in fraud reported by the TCSEW, the National Cyber Security Centre’s Suspicious Email Reporting Service has received more than 10 million reports of scam emails since the service launched. Clearly, the scale of fraud is reaching epidemic levels.
According to the Victim’s Commissioner, nearly a quarter (22%) of victims of fraud can be classed as highly vulnerable, which, when applied to the latest crime statistics, would suggest there were more than a million highly vulnerable fraud victims in the year to September 2021. Under claims made recently by the Prime Minister and Business Secretary, the experiences of nearly 2,700 vulnerable victims of fraud each day are to be discounted.
These statements, coupled with recent headlines on the fraudulent abuse of COVID-19 schemes, send the wrong messages to criminals. The Government needs to be seen to be taking the issue of fraud seriously and convey the message that they will pursue and prosecute those who perpetrate it. I am pleased to see fraud being included in the Online Safety Bill but what we now need to see is substantial investment in the policing of fraud.
For those of us concerned with protecting the victims of fraud, we need the Government to create a national service to protect victims of fraud building on the success of the Victim Care Unit operated by the City of London Police, bring forward planned reforms to economic crime law, make it easier to share data and intelligence to combat fraud, and make fraud a policing priority.
But first, perhaps, we need the Government to understand the basics of fraud, recognising that it is a crime, with immeasurable impacts on its victims and society.
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