/ Money

Should fraud be a police priority?

A new report has found that when it comes to fraud, the police aren’t even putting their fists up to defend the public. Should it be a higher priority?

The police are fighting a losing battle against fraud.

The watchdog that oversees the performance of the police force, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, found that fraud is often deprioritised against other crimes.

Many forces don’t have enough resource to adequately investigate fraud and, in the instance of one police force, simply file away the overwhelming majority of cases without further investigation.

A fraud epidemic

We are in the midst of a fraud epidemic – around 3.3 million incidents were reported in the past year, and the estimated cost of fraud is in the billions – but it’s clear that the police are struggling to pull together the will and resource to tackle this emerging threat. And they claim there is no strategic leadership from government to help them in their fight against fraud.

Our own research has found that 96% of reported fraud cases go unsolved.

In September last year, we found that just one in four cases that have been reported to Action Fraud in the past four years were forwarded onto local police forces, and we estimated that less than 1% of the those have been solved, and 3% were still being investigated.

Despite the fact that fraud and cyber-crime offences are now 10 times more common than burglary, it is clearly not getting the attention it desperately needs.

Just two weeks ago, the banking industry reported that criminals successfully stole £1.2bn through fraud and scams.

On the pages of Which? magazine and online, we repeatedly follow the stories of people who’ve lost life-changing sums of money to scams.

Victims left feeling abandoned

Too often, victims are left feeling abandoned and confused as investigations drag on with little sign of progress.

To show they are serious about winning the battle against increasingly sophisticated fraudsters, the government, police and banking industry must establish a more coordinated approach and make scams a top priority.

This is a threat to public safety – failing to stem tsunami of scams we face will make beating the fraudsters near-impossible in the future.

Do you think fraud should be a higher priority for the police?


Education is the key to reducing fraud but people have to listen. I know of older relatives that would get very annoyed and wouldn’t listen if you tried to tell them, but put kids acting short scam scenarios at the start of Strictly, and they would lap it up.

Open to any budding (or not) young actors, they would be cheap to produce, maybe offer £50 for every film used, the more the better to maintain interest and eventually the messages would sink in.

Here is a simple one I made some time ago:

Mr Leslie Hopkins says:
4 April 2019

The Government has failed on every level to properly tackle the major issues facing this Country not least of which calling a referendum of which no one except the Conservative party wanted.

MGB says:
4 April 2019

They’ve been busy *creating* the major issues this country faces!

4 April 2019

I personally dont know anyone who is a victim of crime but wouldnt like to be a victim myself

June Hartley says:
4 April 2019

Cyberfraud is monumental and on the increase and needs to be dealt with. All these cutbacks are the governments fault, why are we paying xtra council tax for services that we, the public are not getting! It’s so unjust.

The government itself helps criminals. They “liberalise” financial matters. For example Pensions. People being able to take out their pensions and do what they like with them! What lunacy. Many (even most) do not have the knowledge or education to make such difficult decisions.
Even the lack of regulation of Banks and Building Societies led to the 2008 crash, which we (the general public, but not the richest) have been paying back the Banks for 10 years of Austerity. A lot of swindles are carried out because the Banks don’t take any responsibility. For example if every Bank statement had printed in LARGE LETTERS: WE WILL NEVER PHONE YOU OR EMAIL YOU AND ASK FOR YOUR SECURITY DETAILS. WE WILL NEVER PHONE YOU OR EMAIL AND ASK YOU TO DO ANYTHING WITH YOUR MONEY. people might be less inclined to make these mistakes. The banks could do a lot more to prevent fraud.

DC says:
4 April 2019

DC says the police seem to be over stretched given their resource, which at the same time criminals are becoming more sophisticated. There appears to be more equipment and access, which can be seen unregulated on-line, which helps the criminals and not law abiding citizens

The “Government” claim there is no direct link between police numbers and crime – probably because crimes are being declassified. I believe it was Sir Robert Mark, Met chief in the 70’s who said the only deterrent to crime is the near certainty of being caught. To achieve this we need more police.

Our UK law enforcement needs to be properly funded to assist in the detection & charging of the fraudsters.

It’s very easy to say that police resources are inadequate for pursuing and prosecuting fraud crimes, but we don’t really know.

The number of police officers employed is not necessarily a measure of capacity. There are also civilian and expert specialists working on cases, and a single crime can have a hundred victims scattered over forty police forces. The question of the other resources deployed by the police also has a bearing on their effectiveness. Policing is no longer a matter of notebooks, pencils, whistles and truncheons, so new technology has enabled faster responses, multiple simultaneous investigations, improved forensic examination, improved intelligence gathering and analysis, and the introduction of better counter-measures. This could compensate for a reduction in numbers.

For the victims of unsolved – or un-investigated – fraud attacks, this is no consolation, especially with the findings that in some police forces there is not even any attempt to investigate with the reports just filed for statistical purposes. The deficiencies of Action Fraud are not helpful and perhaps this programme, born in an era of less sophisticated fraud, has had its day and is projecting false hopes of resolution. Citizens are entitled to expect the police to respond responsibly to frauds that lead to huge losses and misery but I accept that it is very difficult to increase capacity and competence against a surge in a silent and invisible crime that has expanded rapidly.

The question has rightly been raised whether we are expecting the wrong people to tackle the problem. Faced with rapes, drugs-related violence, stabbings, and terrorism, who would switch resources to fraud? It seems that the police never drop a murder case or stop looking for missing persons [even in Portugal]; is that the right policy? How many constables and senior personnel does it take away from crime prevention and detection in order to keep the peace outside Parliament during these febrile times? As a society, have we worked out what we really want the most? Or do we want it all, and if so is that reasonable or realistic?

I am not trying to defend the police from criticism but trying to put some context around a rather facile question posed by this Conversation: “Do you think fraud should be a higher priority for the police?. That is what is termed a closed question along the lines of “Would you like a sweetie, baby?” and doesn’t actually get us very far irrespective of how many people say YES.

I have to assume that, in the light of the almost universal affirmative response to this Conversation, Which? is going to do something useful with the information and comments received, but there has been no indication yet what that action might be. Another campaign perhaps? A complaint to the Home Secretary and all the Police & Crime Commissioners? Or is it just a vent?

When the country was gravely threatened during the Second World War and had to crack the enemy’s command and deployment capability the government turned to the universities to help. RADAR was one outcome and codebreaking was another; the best brains were brought together to invent and develop systems and technologies that could cope with the massive numbers of simultaneous threats and provide advance intelligence. A similar response might be appropriate now. I hope some of our better universities are offering to help at this time of national emergency.

I agree with Ian when he says that professional education and public information programmes could reduce the likelihood and effectiveness of fraud crimes, but every citizen with money at risk can also take personal action immediately by looking at how and where they keep their money and how they access it, how they answer the telephone and deal with e-mails, what they say and do on the internet and what information they give away.

I am convinced that on-line banking is the primary route for a lot of fraud because once a criminal has gained access to your computer or smart phone they can soon see how you are managing your money and where it is located, so they can wipe out your savings as well as empty your current account. The sooner the new authentication procedures are introduced for on-line shopping and money transfers the better, and it is a great shame that progress is so slow.

Having all your money in the hands of the same bank or building society [and one password] is probably not a great idea, nor putting all your savings in just one account because the interest rate is a fraction higher. Giving credit card numbers over the phone without key encryption is stupid when you think about it but many companies still take orders that way. And people write their credit card numbers on mail order forms, give them to the low-paid staff in the travel agents and mobile phone shops, and hand them over to other service providers. It only takes one dishonest employee to garner enough data to reap a ripe harvest.

The banks are not as good as gold. I watched a TV programme recently about how the City of London police are trying to deal with fraud crimes. It revealed that one bank had employed someone who had been dismissed from a previous employment for dishonesty, was not suitably screened or supervised, and within a short time was given unrestricted access to databases of customers’ accounts which he started plundering. He and his accomplices could even target the most fruitful deposits without wasting time on the bare cupboards of Mother Hubbard. He was eventually identified, convicted and jailed, but did the banks repay their customers? That wasn’t disclosed and most victims were probably unaware of the outcome. Gross criminality and malversation by the employee but gross negligence by the bank.

The insurance industry investigate their own frauds and bring prosecutions, or deny claims. The banks could (and maybe do) the same – be made responsible for investigating banking fraud, for putting evidence together and for passing this on for prosecution or for simply dealing directly with the fraud. I do not see this as necessarily a problem initially for the police when there are (possibly better) alternatives.

Samuel David McCulloch says:
4 April 2019

Funny isn’t it if you say something online to hurt someone’s feelings the police will call and inform you that they know what you’ve done or arrest you. Come up with a phishing scam and they look the other way.

Almost everything that is being said is relevant but even so blaming inadequacies in the system or priorities given by institutions cannot undermine the responsibility and ignorance that we as individuals have. We need to be more careful, heed the warnings, look at and recognise our vulnerability and act responsibly.

Fenfemme says:
4 April 2019

I am presently in the middle of a scam run by a multi fraudster who has destroyed, marriages, businesses, homes and, yes, lives. This man has destroyed lives and his crimes should be considered seriously detrimental to society but, in spite of many people chasing him for retribution, it is left to private prosecutions to try to get retribution. I’m afraid that he is going to get away with it as the police don’t consider it a priority.

jeff rolf says:
4 April 2019

Needs specialist squads set up that know and understand these types of crime,with their own dedicated computer system.Yes it will cost money,is there an alternative?

John Lansdell says:
4 April 2019

To adequately investigate todays fraud needs people with very specialist backgrounds. It most probably requires the formation of fraud investigation units within existing police forces, or preferably, a new national Fraud Police Service.

Margaret Baugh says:
4 April 2019

The police just need more resouraces to fight all sorts of life changing crime. I know of a child molester who is walking free nearly 3 years after he came to the attention of the police. There is evidence but there are not the specialist resources availabe to deal with the volume of cases reported. We need to get big companies like Boots to pay their full share of taxes for the business they do here in Britain. They are registered in Zug in Switzerland so they don’t pay taxes on the business they do in Britain. There are many like them along with the super rich who legally find ways to get out of paying their tax share. If the government did the right thing to make businesses and the wealthy to pay all the tax they should and close loopholes then there would be more money in the pot for the things this country needs.

This vote includes holding to account the giants (such as a famous Search engine owner) through whose “Shopping facility” I purchased expensive items only to realise they were made of fake material. I did leave a clear negative, strong review with that Search engine owner but obviously they never got back to me (Too big to deal with an ordinary person like me but of course they make good money out of many ordinary people like me). I am glad European Regulators fine them for irregularities – I hope you’ll look into this “Fraud” of the Search engine owner too.

From what I’ve seen, some fraudsters put a lot of effort into the manipulation of search engine results.

Over time, web browsers seem to be getting better at having tools to filter out reported known dodgy web links, but I that that’s a constant battle because fraudsters can easily set up new website addresses.
Naseer, sorry to hear that you got ripped off.

One of the problems with shopping on-line is that you often need to trust people whose identity and location is not readily apparent. Hence I like to use eBay and usually restrict myself to UK vendors (although I recently got much speedier and better service from an outfit in Poland than I typically get from the UK).

I also have some limited experience of selling stuff on eBay, from which I learnt that there are also some fraudulent buyers out there too.

Graham Eaton says:
4 April 2019

I phoned the Greater London Police
– No return
Action Fraud
– no return
They probably blame it in cuts, austerity!

Steve Evans says:
4 April 2019

A) This problem is not going to go away its going to grow exponentially in the future
B) The Police (Leadership) have not a clue, the government MUST set up a separate Cyber Crime Enforcing body, keep the old bobbies out of it . This requires high intellect not often found amongst Police leadership .
C) A new set of laws are required
D) The big tech players and financial institutions must second ‘Experts ‘ into the new body and get real involvement
E) This should no more be part of the”police” than the serious fraud office is
F) Such a body should be protected from the political correctness brigade and should not be dragged into any other unsavoury cyber abuses , bullying , porn , terrorism etc etc ( also unfit for police to be involved with) but feel that a separate organisation required for this also.
Bottom line is politicians not interested until it affects enough of them personally

Reply to ZERO on the internet, letter or phone / text. If your NOT sure.
Simply walk into your bank and ASK.

I have had major fraud happen on my personal (online) bank account twice.
In both cases, I requested that the police get involved and in neither case did they respond.
I came to the conclusion that the banks weren’t interested in fraudulent activity below a certain threshold (about £50,000) and that it involved too much work for the police to be bothered with.
I no longer do any form of online banking.