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Case Studies

Hiding behind the veil of Action Fraud

Radical change is required to address the investigative gap in fraud, argues a counter-fraud academic criminologist. That change could be either a move towards regional investigation of economic crime; or a national solution, through a National Economic Crime Agency.

In an academic paper published in Policing, Prof Mark Button, director of the Centre for Counter Fraud Studies, at the University of Portsmouth, says that the widely derided Action Fraud has become a useful veil from which the police can hide their inadequate response. His paper is titled: Hiding behind the Veil of Action Fraud.

Although crime surveys show that fraud is the number one volume crime in the UK, Mark Button calculated just 0.6 per cent of police officers are dedicated to investigating fraud.

The research focused on reviews and investigations carried out over the past 20 years and found that these have consistently highlighted the low priority given to the investigation of financial crimes in England and Wales. In 2018 the House of Commons home affairs committee said that “the proportion of fraud cases being investigated is shockingly low”.

Mark Button says: “Action Fraud is in reality a call centre provided by a private company under contract to the City of London Police. The staffs it employs are largely low-skilled and paid at around the minimum wage. It has no capacity to investigate. However, even in the area it does have responsibility for there is an evidence of areas in need of improvement.”

Whether UK police investigation of fraud would be better to go regional is among the topics at the Centre’s 2021 Annual Counter Fraud and Forensic Accounting Conference: online, instead of at Portsmouth, on Wednesday, June 16. Speaking for regionalising are Michael Skidmore and Dr Rick Muir, of the Police Foundation; and against Mike Betts of the counter-fraud trade association Cifas and the former police auditor Dr Peter Tickner. Other confirmed speakers include Jim Gee (of the audit firm Crowe), the consultant Peter Taylor, and John Davies of the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB).

As at previous such conferences there’s an international flavour, and the topics are wide-ranging, from romance fraud to unethical behaviour to UK governance of corruption, and bribery in the UK construction sector. You can sign up free to attend, via the Portsmouth website.


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