Police response to online fraud ‘inconsistent’

7 Dec 17

The police’s response to online fraud across England and Wales is inconsistent and forces need to ensure it is a priority, the Public Accounts Committee has warned.

In a report published yesterday, the MPs noted that online fraud was referred to in only 27 of the 41 police and crime plans produced by police and crime commissioners.

The PAC concluded that online fraud was “now too vast a problem for the Home office to solve on its own”.

It urged cooperation with a host of other organisations including banks and retailers, although banks also came in for criticism for not doing enough to tackle the problem.

According to the PAC, online fraud is now the most prevalent crime in England and Wales, with costs estimated at £10bn.

There were around 2 million cyber-related fraud incidents last year, although the committee said the true extent of the problem remains unknown as many victims do not come forward. Indeed, only about 20% of fraud is reported to the police, the PAC said.

PAC chair Meg Hillier said: “Online fraud is a virulent and unprecedented threat that has taken hold rapidly, causes untold misery and costs individuals and businesses billions of pounds each year.

“The government accepts there is an enormous amount of work needed to tackle the problem—work that in our view must put people first.”

Policing must be more consistent, she said. “Government has a vital role in ensuring this happens.”

The PAC called on the Home Office to establish what can be done to help all police forces tackle online fraud. This should include identifying and sharing good practice in a more systematic way.

The Home Office should also collect the data needed to assess whether its policy responses were working, and Hillier said: “The government must get better at explaining the tricks employed by fraudsters to target different groups, and set out clearly the action it is taking to tackle them.”

  • Vivienne Russell
    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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