Speaking this morning on the BBC Radio 5 Live programme, Wake Up to Money, our board member David Clarke called on the Government’s new Joint Fraud Task Force not to simply collect more intelligence but to use it to help protect individuals and small businesses.
He said that his charity, the Fraud Advisory Panel welcomed today’s announcement by the Home Secretary that the task force, a partnership between the Bank of England, commercial banks and police, will “bring the collective powers, systems and resources of banks, payment providers, police, wider law enforcement and regulators to bear on the fraud threat”.
He described the fraud and money laundering threat as a cancer that shames not only the financial services sector but blights the reputation of every citizen in the United Kingdom, and asked why it has taken so long to establish such an initiative given that joint working and intelligence sharing between banks and the authorities has been on the agenda for almost 10 years.
David led the programme that established the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), Action Fraud and other new services that emanated from the UK Government’s Attorney General-led Fraud Review of 2006.
Stressing the vital importance of intelligence sharing and working together to fight fraud, he warned that intelligence had to result in action against serious criminals and corrupt officials, many of whom operate and flourish in the UK, stealing millions from individuals and small businesses.
He gave an example of one such victim, who last year gave over £1.6m to fraudsters in an elaborate dating scam. The criminals were based in the UK and even met the victim at Canary Wharf in London. David helped the businesswoman to report the crime through Action Fraud. The report was processed by the NFIB, who collate millions of records of fraud and create packages that can be actioned and send these to police forces for investigation. The suspects in this case were identifiable and the victim’s money had passed through UK bank accounts. The case was thus allocated to the relevant police force for investigation.
The fact that the victim of the £1.6m fraud was not seen by police for a few weeks and that the case was passed between police forces highlights the issue that fraud is not dealt with in the same way as, say, a burglary, and that is not treated as a priority by the police. London’s Metropolitan Police Operation Falcon team were eventually sent the case; they saw the victim executed warrants and successfully prosecuted some of the fraudsters. However, the victim’s money that passed through the banks was lost.
The cuts in police budgets have resulted in levels of resources that are woefully inadequate to deal with the epidemic levels of fraud and money laundering. This is evident in the small number of investigations and prosecutions.
Small businesses and individuals in the UK do not have the in-house fraud investigation expertise to prevent and investigate fraud, nor do they have the data and intelligence that banks and law enforcement do. We need to give them the resources to protect themselves.
Clarke said that the public also wants to see action taken against fraudsters and for intelligence to be used to protect them, not just collected.
You can listen to the interview below and on the BBC iPlayer website. (Interview starts at 20:30.)
For an insight into the devastation that corruption and fraud causes globally, and what can be done to stop the flow of dirty money, watch this Ted Talk by Charmian Gooch, founder of Global Witness.