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Fraud review welcomed

A review of police work against fraud has been welcomed by National Business Crime Solution (NBCS), a not-for-profit data sharing platform whereby retailers and other businesses can track fraud against them.

The review of the performance of reporting service Action Fraud, carried out late in 2019 by Sir Craig Mackay, the former Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said the service was failing to answer one third of calls and suffered ‘disturbing’ problems including high turnover of outsourced civilian staff and ‘unacceptable delays’.

As a result of the review ordered last autumn, money could be redirected to fraud policing as part of a national overhaul to fund new officers and staff in regional fraud squads and assist recruitment from the private sector.

Simran Baghara, pictured, fraud and legal services manager for Claims Detect Online, the fraud detection arm of NBCS, said: “Many retailers have been critical of Action Fraud for a number of years, especially the system’s inability to allow bulk reporting of cases. If this review has achieved anything, it is the fact that police can collaborate with other sectors including retailing and banking, where many of the experienced analysts reside.”

Action Fraud is the national police body that takes in cases, while the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) decides which cases should be escalated to police forces for investigation.

In his report, now in the hands of the Home Office, Sir Craig wrote that an integral part of the NFIB’s computer system, which matches crimes having similar features such as the same bank account, is “malfunctioning” and larger networks of offenders are in effect beyond the reach of law enforcement.

This resulted in backlogs of tens of thousands of cases with staff having to resort to trying to group cases manually in a spreadsheet and saying they feel “they can no longer work effectively to identify criminals and help bring them to justice”.

Sir Craig found the computer system needed urgent repair and “the future of fraud investigation in the UK is dependent on it”. He wrote that the lack of staff and the computer problems have created a “perfect storm”.

Sir Craig, who was also the former head of the National Business Crime Centre, was asked to investigate Action Fraud after undercover work by The Times newspaper in summer 2019 found failings – such as outsourced call handlers being encouraged to mislead victims into believing they were talking to the police and referring to them as ‘morons’ and ‘losers’.

Simran added: “This is a brave report which admits police can’t tackle fraud on their own. We work across multiple retailers with the aim of spotting fraudulent claim data and modus operandi. We would be happy to work collaboratively with officers and our customers to share our anonymised data, as it may assist in disrupting organised fraudulent behaviour.”

Claims Detect Online, which can monitor and analyse the audit trail of thousands of transactions across multiple retail businesses to spot suspicious claims and anomalies, adds that it’s looking to widen its search net by attracting smaller retailers to complement the transaction data already provided by NBCS’s larger brands. Visit www.nationalbusinesscrimesolution.com.


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