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Government plans new anti-fraud reporting system


Mark Say Managing Editor

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'Fraud' on screen under magnifying glass
Image source: Mutlu

The UK Government is planning a new online system for reporting fraud along with an increased anti-fraud role for the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and a series of measures with the technology industry.

They are among the features of its Fraud Strategy, published this week by the Home Office and aimed initially at a 10% reduction in the 2019 levels of fraud by 2025.

 It comes in response to fraud having become the most common crime in the UK, with one in 15 people falling victim and costing nearly £7 billion a year. Much of this is related to modern technology, with nine in 10 internet users having encountered online scams.

One measure in the strategy to set up a new state-of-the-art system, including a new reporting website, to replace the existing Action Fraud national reporting centre. The website will give anyone reporting a crime to track the progress of their report and receive updates.

This will involve a £30 million investment and include improvements already underway, including an increased use of automation, more staff in the centre’s call centre, the introduction of a chatbot and the analysis of web reports.

The replacement service is expected to be launched within a year.

Expansion of Share and Defend

The NCSC is also set to play a significant role, with its Share and Defend hub – launched last year – enabling it to share details of malicious websites with industry in near real time to protect the public.

It will expand the relevant service to financial institutions and technology companies over the coming year, and work with industry on improving security practices.

In addition, the Government will ban the SIM farms used by criminals to send thousands of scam texts at one, review the use of mass text aggregators, make it harder for fraudsters to spoof UK numbers, make the technology sector put extra protections in place, and support the building of relevant digital skills in police forces and the wider public sector.

Other measures include the appointment of Anthony Browne MP as a new anti-fraud champion, along with a ban on devices or methods commonly used by scammers, banks being allowed to delay payments from being processed to investigate those that are suspicious, and deploying the UK intelligence community to identify and disrupt more fraudsters overseas.

Using all levers

Home Secretary Suella Braverman MP commented: "It is vital we adopt a new approach to this threat. The Fraud Strategy outlines how we will use all levers available to us – through government, law enforcement, industry and international partners – to track down these criminals, intercept their scams and bring them to justice.

Graeme Biggar, director general of the National Crime Agency, said: “The NCA welcomes the new Fraud Strategy and our role in the National Fraud Squad. Through the National Economic Crime Centre, we will drive a proactive intelligence led response, holding fraudsters to account and protecting the public from criminals who operate increasingly online and overseas.”

The strategy has attracted some criticism from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), which welcomed its publication but said “gaps” in other areas may reduce its impact. These include that the measures aimed at social media and technology companies do not go far enough and that the long term funding of fraud reform is uncertain beyond the current spending round.

Helena Wood, co-head of its economic crime programme, said: “Although the strategy includes extra resources for policing fraud, the levels are not commensurate with the scale of the threat. They are certainly not enough to turn around decades of underinvestment in the enforcement response to the crime that affects more UK citizens than any other.”

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