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‘Shockingly low’ number of fraud cases are successfully cleared up

A ‘shockingly low’ number of fraud cases are being successfully cleared up as authorities fight a losing battle, according to consumer group Which?

Just four in 100 crimes reported to Action Fraud have a successful outcome, analysis of available figures by Which? shows.

This means a large majority of victims could be left fighting their bank for a refund and potentially taking it to the Financial Ombudsman if they are unsuccessful.

Losing battle: Data from Which? suggest that authorities are struggling to cope with a deluge of financial fraud cases

Losing battle: Data from Which? suggest that authorities are struggling to cope with a deluge of financial fraud cases

Losing battle: Data from Which? suggest that authorities are struggling to cope with a deluge of financial fraud cases

Some crimes reported to Action Fraud – which acts as a central point of contact for victims of scams – are passed on to a local police force for investigation, typically one where the suspect lives.

Which? submitted Freedom of Information requests to 43 police forces across the UK, asking them to provide data on fraud investigations.

Of those that responded, 29 out of 30 had seen their performance slip between 2014 and 2016, the consumer group said.

As a result, it argues that a ‘losing battle’ is being fought against this crime.

A Money Mail and This is Money investigation in April 2016 revealed that even though fraud victims are encouraged to contact Action Fraud, the majority of cases are not investigated.

Which? also says it found a ‘lack of transparency’ around the available statistics for fraud.

It claimed the current process for investigating fraud can be slow, which could in part be due to the need to request data from banks.

Ceri Stanaway, Which? Money editor, said: ‘The shockingly low success rate for fraud investigations is leaving many victims deprived of justice and suggests the authorities are fighting a losing battle against this type of crime.

‘Unfortunately, investigations are often conducted at a slow pace – with communication between banks and the authorities often dragging on for weeks before police can launch a full inquiry.

‘We’d urge consumers to be extremely cautious when dealing with unsolicited contact – as fraud is on the rise.’

Action Fraud is run by the City of London Police and works alongside the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.

A statement from City of London Police said: ‘Fraud is the fastest-growing crime in the UK and this means that it is not always possible to enforce our way out of the problem – due to the high volume of cases it is not possible for every report of fraud to result in a judicial outcome.

‘For this reason, it is important that law enforcement not only focuses on pursuing suspects, but also works to prevent and protect people from fraud.

‘The City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau disrupts email addresses, bank accounts and phone lines associated in fraudulent activity. In 2016-17, 170,856 disruption requests were made.’

The statement said Action Fraud publishes its statistics on its website and it is always working with local forces to improve transparency.

Action Fraud is currently preparing to introduce an upgraded computer system to improve the service for victims.

Last month it was revealed that Action Fraud takes twice as long to answer the phone than the taxman and many calls aren’t picked up despite victims needing help quickly.

A spokesman for trade association UK Finance said: ‘The finance industry invests millions of pounds in advanced security systems to protect customers and last year prevented £2 in every £3 of attempted unauthorised fraud.

‘Intelligence is continuously shared across the industry and with law enforcement to crack down on fraud and the criminals responsible.

‘The industry also fully sponsors a police unit dedicated to tackling banking and card fraud, which successfully prevented £25million of losses and disrupted seven organised criminal gangs in the first half of this year alone.

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We remain committed to improving the law enforcement response to fraud.

‘Through the Joint Fraud Taskforce, we are working with the City of London Police, the national lead force for fraud, to educate the police, share best practice and establish a consistent and transparent approach to fraud across all forces.’

He added that a thematic inspection of fraud this year ‘will provide the catalyst for local forces to increase their awareness of fraud.’

 

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