Fraud has been in the news this week following the release of the ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) report on The Nature, Extent and Economic Impact of Fraud.
This produced the headline grabbing figure of £20bn lost to fraud every year and brought home the impact of fraud – and the fear of fraud – is having on ordinary people. It is, the report made crystal clear, certainly not a "victimless crime" as often chracterised by police and Home Office in the past when pressed for a more focussed attack on fraud.
Earlier in the week, the chairman of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) spoke to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Insurance & Financial Services and painted an equally grim picture about the extent of fraud. He admitted that even he found it hard to get the police engaged with the need to investigate fraud, although he was able to point to some examples of where police forces had worked with insurers to investigate insurance fraud.
The disappointing aspect to all of this is that there is little in the way of plans for concerted action. ACPO have called for the establishment of a National Fraud Reporting Centre (which is a recommendation the Home Office is looking at already) but all this can do is depress us further. We all know that the £20bn figure is an under-estimate, probably a serious under-estimate, but knowing for certain that the real figure is much higher doesn't seem to get us alot further forward.
What we need is some fresh calls for action to curtail fraud and catch the fraudsters as part of a fully fledged National Fraud Strategy. This requires a whole raft of measures: more funding for Fraud Squads, the designation of one or two police forces to take the lead nationally on fraud (the City of London Police already does some of that) and the creation of targets for catching fraudsters and eliminating fraud.
The government is committed to publishing its response to the consultations to the Fraud Review published last year on Thursday next week (15 March). Is it too optimistic to hope for some real, tough measures to be proposed as part of that?
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