Government launches new long-delayed Fraud Strategy
Experts at RUSI identify gaps in the strategy
The government presented its new Fraud Strategy on 3 May, which aims to reduce the volume of fraud. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak noted in a speech on the new strategy that fraud accounts for over 40 per cent of all crime, according to government statistics, costing the UK nearly £7 billion per year. Not only are the proceeds of crime funding serious organised crime, but new technologies are said to be making it easier for fraudsters and scammers to commit crime.
Measures being introduced by the Fraud Strategy include: outlawing so-called ‘SIM farms,’ technical devices that allow criminals to send scam texts to thousands of people at the same time; working with Ofcom to stop more cases of number ‘spoofing’; banning cold calls on all financial products; the launch of a new National Fraud Squad led by the National Crime Agency and the City of London Police, which includes 400 new staff members; stepping up work with international partners and making greater use of the UK’s intelligence community to identify and disrupt more fraudsters overseas; working with tech companies to make it as simple as possible to report fraud online; and looking at giving banks more time to process payments, to allow suspicious payments to be investigated.
Experts from Royal United Services Institute’s (RUSI) Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies welcome the new strategy, but raise concerns around the lack of a bolder policing reform plan and stronger measures to reduce the role technology companies play in facilitating fraud.
RUSI’s experts highlight gaps in the government’s response, including: that the strategy lacks a vision for reforming the policing response and allocates only 400 new officers to the new effort; the measures in the strategy to reduce the outsized role played by social media and tech companies in facilitating fraud and scams are voluntary and do not go far enough; and that the long-term funding of fraud reform is uncertain and unsustainable beyond the current spending round and there is no plan to increase funding in the future.
Helena Wood, Co-head of RUSI’s UK Economic Crime Programme, said: “Fraud ruins the lives of millions of people in the UK, yet the government has repeatedly failed to include fraud statistics in its estimations of crime levels. When included, crime is clearly rising and not falling. Although the strategy includes extra resources for policing fraud, these levels are not commensurate to the scale of the threat. They are certainly not enough to turn around decades of under-investment in the enforcement response to the crime affecting more British citizens than any other.”