Sponsored by Altia-ABM

Keith Ditcham – Acting Director/Senior Research Fellow, Organised Crime and Policing at RUSI
Alex Rothwell – Head of Fraud Operations, Detective Chief Superintendent at City of London Police
Dr. Janice Goldstraw-White – Criminologist (White-Collar Crime) GWAssociates and Researcher at Perpetuity Research
Mick Creedon – Altia-ABM

Key points

Keith Ditcham notes that given the impact of fraud it should have a higher focus in a national security context, there is a national objective that relates to prosperity and fraud undermines that, it is a massive cost, and that is just on the bit we know about. Moreover, there is a lack of understanding of the links between fraud and organised crime and fraud and terrorism. Part of the problem is that leadership on this issue is fragmented, this complicates the appeal for funding that would see a better allocation of resources, and the generation of a whole system response. Keith reminds us that frauds can affect public trust. He warns us to expect large losses from the distribution of grants to help cope with Covid-19. On the one hand victims say economic crimes are serious and on the hand the police say that have too many other priorities. Offenders see frauds as low risk and high reward, sentences have not been seen to be high, and these need to be tackled. We can achieve that by collaborating, the 4Ps offers a reference point.

Alex Rothwell reminds us of the progress that has been made in tackling frauds, he points to the development of the national reporting centre, Action Fraud, which is evolving, and he feels shows great promise. That said, this is not a problem law enforcement can solve in its own. The police have to prioritise, they have much else to deal with including demonstrations, violence on the street, and responding to the demands of policing Covid. Strikingly he highlights that frauds are preventable. The decisions organisations (and individuals) make and the ways they behave in the extent to which they follow good prevention practices determine their vulnerabability; where they are negligent why should the police pick up the tab? He calls on Governments to set the standard and tone here; perhaps they need to regulate behaviour, and specifically what is expected to prevent frauds. He points to the considerable innovation that has been shown in protecting against burglary and invites discussion on how this may apply to frauds. He highlights the benefits in targeted protection; clarifying what is expected of the key stakeholders in responding effectively; and learning from experts.

Dr Janice Goldstraw-White notes that fraud is a volume crime and is problematic to tackle: fraud reporting and allocation are not quick; fraud investigations take longer; offences are often complex for example they may be committed across borders; and fraudsters are imaginative. In companies she questions whether Boards really understand the risks they face or the adequacy of their responses. She calls on them and other parties to take this more seriously.

Mick Creedon is unequivocal, he firmly places the blame for the current response to fraud at the seat of Government. With reference to the pandemic and all its costs, he notes that fraud has not only likely escalated alongside it, but its costs compare, yet it has received minimal focus. Frauds are endemic and governments can do something about them, but it takes a political will to do so. He notes the lack of understanding of the problem, the lack of good data, and this contributes to it being labelled as a non priority area of activity. He calls on the Government to set the agenda, they have a duty to protect people; it cannot be left to policing along, there are other important stakeholders to engage. They need to be motivated and incentivised to work together on what is a national security issue, albeit an unrecognised one.

This fascinating webinar highlights both the scale of the problem – this crime is the most common type of all – and the weaknesses of the response. It is for sure possible to point to pockets of good activity, but there is a lack of priority from Governments, and a tendency to prioritise other offences without obvious regards for the real dangers frauds cause, and threats they pose, including to national security. Making organisations responsible for good practice would be a start, if they do not take this seriously and become a victim is it reasonable for the costs of responding to fall to the public sector? Times are changing, there is more (but not enough) awareness, and the response, and thinking about it, lags behind the problem. The real gainers right now are fraudsters, and we need to change that.

Martin Gill
1 December 2020

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