This week I have written my article for the Herald and Post about collective efforts to tackle fraud and how this work is paying off.
The latest ONS crime survey shows that crime has fallen by 13 percent this year (the original government target was a reduction of ten percent by 2024). This equates to just over three million cases per year. Whilst this is still a very big number, the downward trend shows that what the government and industry – and the public - are doing to combat fraud seems to be having an effect.
Fraud is without doubt the biggest single crime category by volume. As we do increasing amounts of life admin and shopping online, the opportunities for criminals grow every day.
And I can see from constituency casework that although the average monetary cost of fraud to an individual may be relatively small, the emotional impact can be enormous, as can the hassle factor of trying to get your money back.
As Security Minister, economic crime, including consumer fraud, was part of my ministerial brief. I spent many hours working with officials, law enforcement and industry on a new long-term plan to tackle fraud.
But that was easier said than done.
Frauds once carried out can be impossible to trace and can be within a completely different jurisdiction in the blink of an eye, thanks to the complexity and anonymity of the internet.
Many different people may be involved in a fraud. Most online frauds have an international element, and a sizeable chunk of frauds in the UK have no UK-based perpetrator at all.
The UK is an attractive market for fraudsters because of our high internet use and the English language. Although we think first about the most vulnerable people as likely victims, actually younger people who spend lots of time online can also be easy prey for fraudsters.
During Covid we saw computer use soar across the board, and with it, online fraud. This included romance fraud which saw a huge spike during the pandemic. With shops closed and people staying at home during the lockdowns, the opportunities for more traditional acquisitive crimes fell significantly.
Sadly, the desire to defraud money from people did not.
Many organisations are involved in the fight against fraud - The National Cyber Security Centre, the National Crime Agency, City of London Police and, locally, the Economic Crimes team within Hampshire police.
But industry has also grasped the nettle in recent years. Industry-wide regulations and action by the banks themselves have added extra layers of security to protect customers when transacting online. Changes such as the ‘confirmation of payee service,’ which checks names against bank account details, and improvements to how we authenticate our identity online before we transfer funds – for example Barclay’s Pinsentry device – all help to frustrate the fraudsters.
Whilst it’s always good to exceed a target, there is so much more to be done. As unless we all stop using the internet, this problem is not going away any time soon.
For action on protecting ourselves from fraud, visit: actionfraud.police.uk