Auditors criticise weak Whitehall response to online fraud

30 Jun 17

The government is not doing enough to tackle online fraud despite it costing businesses £144bn and individuals £10bn in 2016, according to the National Audit Office.

A report released today into the growing problem of online fraud states that the Home Office’s response “is not proportionate” to the increasing threat.

“Fraud is now the most commonly experienced crime in England and Wales, and most takes place online,” it says.

“In the year to 30 September 2016, the ONS reported an estimated 11.8 million incidents of crime in England and Wales. For the first time, the official figures revealed an estimated 3.6 million fraud incidents, of which 1.9 million incidents (53%) were cyber-related.”

Incidents of criminals using stolen card details to make fraudulent transactions jumped 103% between 2011 and 2016, from 709,000 to approximately 1.4 million.

According to NAO head Amyas Morse the “low value but high volume crime” of online fraud has been “overlooked” by government, police and the private sector.

He added: “While the department [Home Office] is not solely responsible for reducing and preventing online fraud, it is the only body that can oversee the system and lead change.”

He welcomed the launch of the Joint Fraud Taskforce in February 2016 as a “positive step” but warned there is still much work to be done. 

“At this stage it is hard to judge that the response to online fraud is proportionate, efficient or effective,” Morse added.

One of the problems identified in the NAO’s analysis is that, despite central government’s view that online fraud is a priority, this is not being translated to local police forces.

Online fraud features in a number of national strategies, including the 2016 Modern Crime Prevention Strategy and the National Cyber Security Strategy but only 27 out of 41 police and crime commissioners referred to online fraud in their police and crime plans as at April 2017.

The NAO is calling on the government, police and industry organisations to improve their sharing of data in regards to online fraud.

The report also notes there is no formal requirement for banks to report fraud or share reports with government.

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