Action Fraud ‘failing to hand over cases to the police for investigation’: Senior officer joins criticism of fraud body which is led by City of London police
- The senior police officer also said Action Fraud didn’t consider victims’ needs
- They said of 650 fraud reports a month they were given just 10 to investigate
- The remarks came as part of a report into Action Fraud by consumer group Which?
The UK’s fraud-reporting body doesn’t provide police with information they need to decide whether investigations should go ahead in order to better protect the public, a senior police officer has claimed.
The inspector at a southern England force, who was kept anonymous, spoke to consumer group Which? as part of a special report into Action Fraud.
In the report, seen exclusively by This is Money, the officer said of the 600 to 650 reports filed to Action Fraud by those who live in their force’s area each month, just 10 cases were given to them for investigation.
The UK’s national fraud reporting centre Action Fraud has
The officer branded that ‘appalling’, and said: ‘I think the general policing thoughts are that it’s not fit for purpose. They don’t disseminate things we really should investigate. They just screen them out.
‘Online reporting isn’t suitable for people who are vulnerable and don’t know a lot about fraud. You have to pick your own classifications for fraud, there are many, it’s a lot.’
The report will pile more pressure on to Action Fraud after a string of embarrassing headlines.
Two months ago, an investigation by The Times produced damning revelations about the way the UK’s fraud reporting centre, run by the City of London Police, treats victims.
Fraud victims were mocked by call handlers as ‘morons’, ‘psychos’ and ‘screwballs’, and misled into thinking they were talking to police officers.
The investigation also found victim’s fraud reports were often rarely investigated, with those filed as ‘information reports’ unlikely to be looked at. Call handlers only filed cases as ‘crime reports’ if victims’ bank details were stolen and money lost was not reimbursed, while cold calls were only filed under this category if the victim lost money.
Crime reports had a chance of being sent to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, but even this did not guarantee reports would be looked at or acted upon. In 2018, 270,000 crime reports were filed by Action Fraud, with only 10,000 leading to criminals being caught.
Commander Karen Baxter of City of London Police, which runs Action Fraud, said it wouldn’t be possible for police to go through every single fraud report manually every year
Three years ago a joint investigation by This is Money and our sister title Money Mail revealed four in five fraud cases sent to Action Fraud were not acted upon.
The inspector interviewed by Which? also didn’t think the system previously took any account of victims of fraud. They said: ‘It’s basically a crime-recording function and was never supposed to take care of victims. That was always supposed to be in-force.
‘I think victims have been forgotten, but they’re being remembered now.’
Commander Karen Baxter of City of London Police, who came under pressure following the investigation to axe the US outsourcing company that runs its call centre, said it wasn’t realistic to try and manually review every fraud case.
She told Which?: ‘With 800,000 contacts a year we’d simply not be able to go through every one. If we were to review manually every report that comes in in the first instance, we would miss the risk factors.
‘Our view, and it’s the right view, is we need to identify the highest level of risk as quickly as possible.’
Scammers stole £208million in authorised push payment scams in the first half of 2019. This is where they persuade victims to transfer money directly to them, usually posing as a bank or the police
According to the latest fraud figures released at the end of September by trade body UK Finance, in the first half of 2019 fraud victims lost £208million through authorised push payment scams, where victims transfer money directly to fraudsters.
Meanwhile £408million was stolen over the same period through unauthorised banking fraud.
The statistics led interim Treasury Select Committee chair Catherine McKinnell MP to say ‘there is still much to do to protect consumers from ever-more sophisticated scammers, with more safeguards needed.’
Asked whether there was a chance a fraud victim could file a report to Action Fraud and it not be seen by a human being, the City of London Police said there were ‘a minority of cases where the details are such that it is clear they can’t be progressed, and those may not be reviewed by a person.’
Which?’s head of money Gareth Shaw said: ‘The current system for investigating fraud is leaving victims feeling abandoned and deprived of justice, and suggests the authorities are fighting a losing battle against this devastating crime.
‘With fraudsters using increasingly sophisticated tactics to con people out of life-changing sums of money, it is vitally important that the government, banks and regulators take swift action to give consumers better protection.’
The City of London Police told Which?’s report the UK system of reporting fraud is ‘the envy of police forces around the world’, adding ‘every report is important to Action Fraud’.