New research by Perpetuity Research and the Police Foundation has found that the police response to victims of fraud is inadequate. Despite fraud making up to 31 percent of all crime, and more than one-third of victims reporting that the impact on them was severe or significant, fraud is not prioritised by the police.
Perpetuity Research and the Police Foundation’s analysis of crime data and interviews with national and local practitioners found that the system for dealing with fraud is poorly structured, fraud prevention messages are confusing and victim support services do not cater for the specific needs of fraud victims.
Although the police received 277,561 reports of fraud in 2017/18, only 8,313 (three percent) led to criminal charges. This compares to 13% of reported crimes overall that result in a charge, summons or community resolution. Once a crime is reported, there are major delays before victims know whether their cases will be taken up by the police. This means that vital opportunities for investigation can 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 their local fraud victims.
The research found:
• 35% of victims whose cases were being investigated by the police said the impact of the fraud upon them was 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 police where cyber-enabled and 43% involved first contact being made online.
• In 69% of forces all or most fraud investigations were carried out by non-specialist officers, even though the research found that specialist investigators handle cases more effectively.
• Just 0.8% of the police workforce work in specialist economic crime teams, meaning there is a lack of dedicated resource for dealing with fraud.
• 78% of the police workforce said they needed more training to deal with fraud.
• 74% of police personnel said they do not have the time to effectively deal with fraud cases.
• 86% of police officers and staff thought fraud should be dealt with by specialists.
• 28% of police forces offer no service at all to their local fraud victims.
• 65% of police forces do not know how many victims of fraud contact them. In general, victims are simply passed onto the national Action Fraud call centre, even though in some cases an immediate local response may be appropriate.
• Despite being a third of all crime, the government has no national strategy for tackling fraud. The last strategy was published in 2011 by an organisation, the National Fraud Authority, that has since been abolished.
Perpetuity Research and the Police Foundation today set out recommendations for improving the police response to victims of fraud:
• The government should produce a national strategy for tackling fraud alongside a national fraud policing strategy.
• Local police forces should no longer be responsible for fraud investigations. Investigations should instead be handled by dedicated fraud `specialists, who need not be police officers, in regional fraud investigation units.
• There should be clear national guidance on what police forces should do when they are contacted by a victim of fraud.
• There should be a national framework for identifying vulnerable victims of fraud and all vulnerable victims should be referred to an expanded Economic Crime Victims Care Unit.
• Local police forces should focus on contacting vulnerable victims who need support and providing fraud prevention advice to residents.
Professor Martin Gill, Director of Perpetuity Research said:
‘With the growth of the internet fraud has changed from a corporate white collar crime to a volume crime affecting millions of victims. Fraud is often complex to investigate and the offender and victim may live in different police forces or even different countries. But we found it is far from a victimless crime, and even if the prospect of a conviction is unlikely the police could provide a much better service to the victim.’
The Police Foundation’s Director Dr Rick Muir said:
‘Fraud is a third of all crime but there is no national strategy for dealing with it. We have a local system of 43 police forces that is not set up to deal with a cross-border crime like fraud. This means that too often victims receive a much worse service from the police than they would get with other types of crime and investigations are carried out by local police forces that are over stretched and lack the specialist skills to investigate fraud. We are calling on the government to get a grip on this problem.’
Perpetuity Research and the Police Foundation’s ‘More than just a number: Improving the police response to the victims of fraud’ can be downloaded from www.perpetuityresearch.com or www.police-foundation.org.uk.