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Fraud is huge. It now accounts for 39pc of all crime – nearly two in every five crimes. But not only is it immense in scale, it’s growing at astonishing speed, says the Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird, in a blog. She writes:
Since 2019 and under covid, fraud grew by almost a quarter (24 per cent). Crime estimates suggest there were 4.6 million fraud offences in 2020-21. That makes it – by quite some distance – the largest category of crime. There’s no doubting that fraud is one of the volume crimes of our times.
But despite its prevalence, when we think of the word ‘victim’, fraud is probably not one of the first crimes that springs to mind.
Yet fraud can be a very high-harm offence and victims can suffer greatly. Fraud can be a deeply intimate and interpersonal crime, causing long-lasting emotional trauma as well as financial loss.
We know that the police response to fraud is still not good enough. Presently, only around 2% of police resources are committed to tackling fraud. It’s hard to see how that’s even remotely commensurate to the task. Which is perhaps why out of 8oo,ooo reports and 3 million victims there were fewer than 8,000 fraud prosecutions in 2019. Too many victims still receive a poor service and are denied justice.
For more, visit the Victims’ Commissioner’s website.
The blog marks a 48-page report from the Victims’ Commissioner, on who suffers fraud. From crime survey data, it found that 4.6 million people are affected by fraud each year and around 700,000 will go on to suffer profoundly as a result of their being defrauded.
The analysis found that almost a quarter of fraud victims (22pc) are likely to be deeply affected, experiencing very high levels of financial loss and emotional strain, with many losing £1,000 or over. Victims are mapped across three broad categories: ‘high-vulnerability victims’ (representing 22pc of all fraud victims, vulnerability defined as the level of risk and harm to victims), ‘medium-vulnerability victims’ (23pc), and ‘low-vulnerability victims’ (55pc). The analysis suggests there were around 700,000 high-vulnerability victims in 2018/19.
Within the ‘high- vulnerability cluster (22pc), victims were likely to have experienced financial loss, with property or money taken, and were likely to say they had been affected a lot and to have experienced severe or multiple emotional reactions, including anxiety or depression.
However, over half of fraud victims fell into the ‘low- vulnerability category (55pc), equating to about 1.74 million. This might suggest that although the overall scale of fraud is very large, more than half of its victims may need little support and that finite resources for victim support should be targeted elsewhere.
The research showed that the need for support is not necessarily in line with the amount of money lost. An August HM Inspectorate of Constabulary report into how police handled fraud concluded that too many victims still receive poor service and are denied justice, and that investigation and prevention of fraud services remain under-resourced and are given insufficient enough priority.
For the report, visit https://victimscommissioner.org.uk/published-reviews/who-suffers-fraud/.
Ramona Senior leads West Yorkshire Police’s Economic Crime Unit: “The number of offences is increasing as criminals adapt to changes in the way we lead our lives and so we are changing too. We have seen the report and acknowledge its findings. We will carefully consider it and welcome any information that helps us to understand and safeguard our communities from fraud.
“Fraud is a strategic priority for the force which means we treat it extremely seriously. The extent of fraud is difficult to determine due to the level of fraud that is not reported, however the financial and emotional toll it can have on victims and often their wider families is plain for all to see.”
More in the December 2021 print edition of Professional Security magazine.