Almost ten years after Lord Goldsmith proposed the creation of a national fraud force, financial crime remains the largest type of crime in the UK, making up around 35% of all crime in the country, yet receiving less than 1% of policing resources.
So, what’s the result of this illogical juxtaposition? Well, one unfortunate consequence is that most victims find it almost impossible to report crimes and often end up just giving up.
This is particularly worrying when we remember that fraud is by no means a victimless crime. Indeed, a fraud loss can often be existential for its victims, destroying their whole business and livelihood, without any possibility of recovery if the case is not properly prosecuted.
Another alarming statistic that only adds insult to injury is that perhaps surprisingly, there are many repeat victims of fraud, thereby increasing the need to support and attend victims properly.
Private sector has the resources
As predicted, the hastily formulated ‘furlough’ and ‘bounce-back’ loan schemes which provided a necessary lifeline for so many businesses during the sanctions of the Covid-19 lockdown, also opened the door to opportunistic financial fraudsters. At the time, it was a generally accepted risk that was outweighed by the benefits to prop up large sectors of the economy. But now, they are quickly becoming part of this massive crime statistic.
Agencies do exist to support victims, such as the Action Fraud call centre, which receives details of cases, processes and passes them on to local police forces in the UK (except Scotland).
However, the problems are only exacerbated by the fact that that there is no legal mechanism which assures that a local force takes up a case; rather it is done on a basis of best endeavours or persuasion.
Another frustrating limitation lies in the time it takes for another agency – the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau – to process cases, usually around 2 months.
As anyone with experience in the field of financial fraud can attest, by this time, the fraudster will easily have moved his funds, covered his tracks and will be long gone.
It has therefore fallen upon the private sector to pick up the slack. Unfortunately, they often have more resources and experience than the public sector to investigate cases and implement prevention measures themselves. This will most likely continue to be the case; at least until the government can provide enough resources to bolster its capacity to investigate and help prevent this huge proportion of crime in the UK.