More than 18 months after the government established the Joint Fraud Taskforce to crack down on fraudsters, fraud in the UK is still on the rise. So what has this taskforce been up to?
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that one in six of all estimated crimes in England and Wales are linked to fraud that was committed online.
It’s clear that the only way we can tackle it is by working together.
That’s why when in February 2016 the government announced it was committed to cracking down on the problem by establishing the Joint Fraud Taskforce, Which? welcomed the move.
Last year we called on the taskforce to examine whether companies are taking enough responsibility when their customers are defrauded, and set out recommendations before the end of the year on how companies can better protect them from fraud. In our view, it’s vital that there’s a coordinated approach across government, law enforcement and the financial industry to identify and combat the threats to consumers.
But more 18 months after this taskforce was created, what has it actually achieved?
Well, the answer is that it’s still not clear. We’re concerned about the lack of transparency both in terms of what the taskforce is working on, and importantly what progress it has made to date.
When the taskforce was first established, the government set out a number of key aims including tackling ‘systematic vulnerabilities’ and ‘weak links’ in processes, which fraudsters can exploit. During this time we’ve highlighted various issues that the taskforce would be well placed to tackle.
Almost one in ten people now fall victim to online fraud and the methods used by scammers are increasingly sophisticated, making it more challenging for consumers to equip themselves with the necessary tools and information to protect them.
And it’s not just us that has noticed there has been very little noise coming from the taskforce. Earlier this year the National Audit Office (NAO) published its report into online fraud, which shared our concerns about this lack of transparency. It recommended that the government should publish information on the Joint Fraud Taskforce’s performance and future plans.
Earlier this week, the Home Secretary appeared in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee where the Joint Fraud Taskforce and push payments were up for discussion. Whilst there was some indication that progress is being made, with work by Mastercard to crack down on fraudsters who try to use your card details to buy things, the Home Office revealed that the taskforce is still working on agreeing the measures that it will assess its own progress by.
The taskforce’s minutes, published earlier this week, also revealed that an idea for a fraud hotline was proposed at a meeting in September. According to news reports, this appears to be a developing idea with the details on how such a hotline would work not yet clear. Fraud victims are currently advised to contact Action Fraud.
Waiting for action
It’s now four months on from when the NAO published its recommendation and 18 months after we called on the taskforce to set out how companies can better protect customers from fraud. Since then we’ve heard numerous awful stories from people who have lost life-changing amounts of money through fraud, including bank transfer scams, but who have seen little swift action to help them.
It’s time that the government now set out an ambitious agenda to tackle fraud, publish an update on the progress of the Joint Fraud Taskforce and outline what action it will urgently take to safeguard us from scams.
Do you think the taskforce is doing enough? What would you like to see it doing to combat fraud?