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The UK has retreated from the fight against fraud, says Lords Committee

The House of Lords Fraud Act 2006 and Digital Fraud Committee has published its report, ‘Fighting Fraud: Breaking the Chain’.

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Key conclusions

  • Fraud makes up a shocking 41% of all crime against individuals in England and Wales. Everyone is vulnerable to fraudsters, regardless of background or age, and an adult aged 16 or over is more likely to be a victim of fraud than any other individual crime type.
  • Digital technology has led to new opportunities for fraudsters, and the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this trend as people moved more of their lives online. Yet the people in charge of these new technologies are not doing enough to prevent the exploitation of their services.
  • While the Fraud Act is sound, there are opportunities for improvement. However, due to the under-resourcing of law enforcement, many victims will never see the criminals caught or face justice in the first place.

Key recommendations

  1. There are a mind-boggling variety of departments, agencies and ministers with responsibility for tackling fraud. This which leads to inefficient policymaking and a lack of accountability in government. We want the Government to establish a cabinet subcommittee with a clear mandate to tackle fraud, chaired by and accountable to the Security Minister.
  2. At the moment, just 1% of law enforcement is focussed on tackling economic crime, the way that fraud is policed is ineffective, and agencies lack the digital skills to properly tackle digital crime. We want fraud to be written into the Strategic Policing Requirement, which sets out the top priorities that the police must focus on.
  3. There are several sectors involved in the fraud chain, but they do not all face the same incentives to tackle the problem. Until all fraud-enabling industries fear significant financial, legal and reputational risk, they will not act. So we call for the introduction of a new corporate criminal offence of 'failure to prevent fraud', applicable across all sectors, accompanied by significant financial penalties.
  4. There is no single, national campaign to raise awareness about how to protect yourself against fraud, and how to report it if it happens. The Government should introduce a single, centrally funded consumer awareness campaign in partnership with industry to remedy this.
  5. The Online Safety Bill contains several important measures to prevent fraudulent content and scam advertising from appearing on online platforms and to hold tech companies accountable when they fail. It must be brought to parliament urgently.
  6. Finally, the UK has one of the most advanced digital banking systems in the world. While this is great for businesses and consumers, it makes the UK a lucrative market for fraudsters who want to quickly cash out stolen funds. We are calling for the introduction of a delay lasting no more than several hours on certain high-risk payments. This would give banks more time to analyse whether a payment might be fraudulent.

Chair's comments

Baroness Morgan of Cotes, Chair of the Fraud Act 2006 and Digital Fraud Committee recently said:

“Fraud is the most commonly experienced crime in this country. A person is more likely to be a victim of fraud than any other crime and it costs victims billions in losses, yet it is under-resourced, under-prioritised, and its impact is widely under-estimated.

“If this were any other type of crime, we would deal with it swiftly and the perpetrators would be brought to justice. Because most fraud happens online, it remains invisible and fraudsters walk away without fear of repercussions

“The Government must act. Creating a Cabinet sub-committee would send a message to criminals that it takes fraud seriously. Law enforcement must prioritise fraud and we must slow down payments to give banks more time to analyse suspicious transactions.

“But payments are the last link in the fraud chain. Until all fraud-enabling industries including tech and telecoms companies fear significant financial, legal and reputational risk through new corporate criminal offences, we will never break the chain.”

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