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Interviews

Charity fraud awareness week

How fraudsters tried at once to make use of the Grenfell Tower fire was among the topics aired at the launch of Charity Fraud Awareness Week 2017 yesterday in London.

One of the speakers at the launch in the City of London was Andy Fyfe, Detective Chief Inspector at the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, part of the City of London Police. As he said, fund-raising websites were set up at once after the fire in June at the tower. One, as DCI Fyfe recalled, basically said, ‘send money to my bank account’. The wish of people to help victims of the fire had been so great that several thousand pounds were sent to the site in its first hours; the man behind it was already withdrawing cash. As the website was obviously fake and not meant to aid the victims, police had it taken offline the same day.

DCI Fyfe added that police work with domain name companies in other cases, after tragedies or before major sporting events, as fraudsters may seek to cash in on the goodwill of donors. Fyfe said that 62 domain names to do with Grenfell Tower were set up within a week of the fire; most were genuine, he added, but some were by ‘opportunist crooks’.

Between 75 and 90 per cent of fraud is cyber-enabled, he told the gathering of charity sector and specialist fraud prevention managers. More in the December 2017 print issue of Professional Security magazine.

The opening speaker, Alderman Alison Gowman, herself chairman of a charity, the City Bridge Trust, also referred to Grenfell Tower, and the spelling errors and misrepresentations in some accounts making appeals for aid on online giving platforms. She also described her City trust’s fraud prevention procedures and due diligence. She admitted that some organisations are so stretched because of lack of funds that sometimes their administration may be ‘slightly below par’; and that the managerial and governance requirements of grant-making bodies can be ‘onerous’. Gowman, a solicitor in a London law firm, ended her introduction to the morning by saying that ‘no-one is immune from being targeted by fraid, or caught up in the loss and anxiety that it brings’. As many victims of fraud are elderly, through the official reporting line Action Fraud and the City of London Police, with Age UK, a trial to raise awareness of scams among the elderly is going on in four London boroughs, with a view to rolling the scheme out city-wide.

Also speaking were Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission for England and Wales, who said that a coalition of charities, the regulator, and professional bodies was the way to tackle the issue; and Alan Bryce, the former police officer and former head of counter fraud at the Audit Commission, now head of development and operational intelligence at the Charity Commission. Former City of London Police detective Dave Carter, now head of counter fraud management at the British Council; and an external auditor, Pesh Framjee, head of non-profits at the accountancy firm Crowe Clark Whitehill LLP also spoke; and David Clarke, another former policeman, a trustee of the Fraud Advisory Panel, itself a charity, led a question and answer session with the speakers, to round off the launch.


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