New analysis by Perpetuity Research and The Police Foundation has found that the police response to victims of fraud is “inadequate”. Despite fraud comprising up to 31% of all crime, seemingly it isn’t effectively prioritised by the police.
Perpetuity Research and The Police Foundation’s in-depth studies of crime data and extensive interviews with national and local practitioners have found that the system for dealing with fraud is “poorly structured”, while fraud prevention messages are “confusing” and support services “don’t cater for the specific needs of fraud victims”.
Although the police received 277,561 reports of fraud in 2017-2018, only 8,313 (ie 3%) actually resulted in criminal charges. This compares to 13% of reported crimes overall that result in a charge, a summons or some form of community resolution. Once a crime is reported, there can be major delays before victims know whether their cases will be taken up by the police. In turn, this means that vital opportunities for investigation may be lost.
Victims (and their cases) are often “passed around a fragmented network” of local and national agencies. Some police forces “offer little or no support” to local fraud victims.
The study discovered that 35% of victims whose cases were being investigated by the police said the impact of the fraud upon them was either severe or significant. 78% of fraud cases involved a suspect and a victim living in different police force areas. 69% of fraud cases investigated by the police were cyber-enabled, while 43% involved first contact being made online.
78% of the police workforce said they needed more training to deal with fraud. 74% of police personnel stated they don’t have the time to effectively deal with fraud cases, while 86% of police officers and staff feel fraud should be dealt with by specialists.
In the wake of the study’s results, Perpetuity Research and The Police Foundation have now set out several recommendations for improving the police response to victims of fraud.
First, the Government should produce a national strategy for tackling fraud as well as a national fraud policing strategy. Also, local police forces should no longer be responsible for fraud investigations, which instead ought to be handled by dedicated fraud specialists hosted by regional Fraud Investigation Units.
There should be clear national guidance on what police forces should do when contacted by the victims of fraud. There should also be a national framework for identifying vulnerable victims of fraud, with those victims referred to an expanded Economic Crime Victims Care Unit. Last, but by no means least, local police forces should focus on contacting vulnerable victims who need support and providing them with salient fraud prevention advice.
Professor Martin Gill CSyP FSyI, director of Perpetuity Research, explained to Risk Xtra: “With the growth of the Internet, fraud has changed from being a corporate white collar crime to a volume crime affecting millions of victims. It’s often complex to investigate.”
Fraud certainly isn’t a victimless crime. “Even if the prospect of a conviction is unlikely,” observed Professor Gill, “the police could be providing a much better service to the victims.”