‘We are the ones who tackle the scam­mers’

The Daily Telegraph - Your Money - - FRONT PAGE -

In a bright, air-con­di­tioned of­fice in the City of Lon­don, rows of smartly dressed peo­ple sit work­ing in­tently at com­puter screens. A man with spec­ta­cles and a fur­rowed brow is study­ing a com­pli­cated-look­ing graph that fills his screen.

Un­like so many oth­ers in the City, he isn’t try­ing to make sense of the bal­ance sheet of a ma­jor cor­po­ra­tion or as­sess claims for an in­sur­ance com­pany: he is analysing a bank ac­count flagged as po­ten­tially fraud­u­lent, mapped out in a web link­ing it to scores of crime re­ports, names and ad­dresses.

He is one of around 90 peo­ple work­ing in the Na­tional Fraud In­ves­ti­ga­tion Bureau (NFIB). Part of the City of Lon­don Po­lice, this is where, if you are un­lucky enough to fall vic­tim to scam­mers, your re­port will be as­sessed ac­cord­ing to the like­li­hood of the cul­prit be­ing caught.

Fraud is a rapidly es­ca­lat­ing prob­lem in Bri­tain and, along with cybercrime, now ac­counts for around half of all crime recorded.

Last year, Ac­tion Fraud, the na­tional cen­tre for re­port­ing scams, re­ceived 466,000 calls ei­ther to re­port a crime or to vol­un­teer in­for­ma­tion.

All too of­ten vic­tims of fraud tell Tele­graph Money that they feel aban­doned by the po­lice or that Ac­tion Fraud is “use­less”. If you re­port an in­ci­dent on­line and don’t re­ceive a re­sponse for a month it is easy to feel this way.

But, to try to prove that they do care, the po­lice in­vited Tele­graph Money to the NFIB’s of­fice to peer be­hind the cur­tain at the way they work. Here’s what we dis­cov­ered. There are nearly as many dif­fer­ent types of fraud as there are fraud­sters. Mem­bers of the pub­lic are be­ing tricked into send­ing money to fake builders, con­veyancers, and even lovers.

Un­less a re­port is ur­gent – if you find your­self caught up in an on­go­ing scam that could be stopped im­me­di­ately, for ex­am­ple – it should be re­ported to Ac­tion Fraud rather than your lo­cal po­lice force. This can be done over the phone or on­line us­ing a we­bchat ser­vice.

If you call, you will be put through to one of Ac­tion Fraud’s 80 phone oper­a­tors based in Scot­land. They are not in­ves­ti­ga­tors but will col­lect the ba­sic in­for­ma­tion and en­ter it into a data­base, so the NFIB can ac­cess your file later.

De­tec­tive Sergeant Alex Eris­tavi, a se­nior of­fi­cer in the NFIB, said many peo­ple did not re­alise that Ac­tion Fraud did not in­ves­ti­gate crimes it­self. It is a body that col­lects re­ports to pass on to the po­lice.

The call op­er­a­tor will as­sess the claim to en­sure that it is sent to the cor­rect place and that the vic­tim is treated ap­pro­pri­ately if, for ex­am­ple, they are con­sid­ered to be es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble. Once the de­tails have been

taken they will be sent to the NFIB, af­ter which Ac­tion Fraud can­not ac­cess the re­port again.

The first part of the NFIB’s process is au­to­matic. The de­tails go through a “bal­ance of prob­a­bil­ity test” to weigh the chances of the case be­ing solved.

Part of this is de­rived from its “vi­a­bil­ity” and a score is given on the ba­sis of whether a num­ber of pieces of key ev­i­dence are avail­able. These in­clude a sus­pect’s name, date of birth, ad­dress, bank ac­count de­tails and other per­sonal data.

With­out any of these, a case will be al­most im­pos­si­ble to solve, but even the trick­i­est are never aban­doned.

“Do you think we can read 30,000 re­ports? I’d be ly­ing if I said we could,” Det Sgt Eris­tavi said. “We have to pri­ori­tise what we can solve, but we don’t take these de­ci­sions lightly.

“Just be­cause a case doesn’t make it through, it doesn’t get binned. It stays on the sys­tem, which may rescore it later on based on a new re­port, and it would then go through.”

Once a case makes it through the au­to­mated sys­tem it will be re­viewed

Huge num­bers of frauds are be­ing re­ported every day. Fig­ures from the bank­ing trade body UK Fi­nance show that last year there were more than 43,000 re­ports of bank trans­fer fraud alone. Many cases are never re­ported, per­haps be­cause the vic­tims do not re­alise they have been de­frauded or are sim­ply too em­bar­rassed to say any­thing.

Law firm Pin­sent Ma­sons said re­cently that po­lice cuts were hav­ing an im­pact on the abil­ity to se­cure pros­e­cu­tions for white-col­lar crimes.

Last year one of the Metropoli­tan Po­lice’s most se­nior of­fi­cers warned that spe­cial­ist units would have to close if more fund­ing was not made avail­able.

Det Sgt Eris­tavi said deal­ing with the sheer num­ber of cases was a chal­lenge, but he was sto­ical about the im­pact of cuts.

“The chal­lenge is the num­ber of re­ports of fraud com­ing in. The vol­umes are mas­sive – I think there’s prob­a­bly no one in the coun­try who hasn’t ex­pe­ri­enced fraud them­selves or through a fam­ily mem­ber,” he said.

“It is what it is. We have the staff we are given and we man­age.”

To re­port a sus­pected scam, go to ac­tion­fraud.po­lice.uk/re­port_fraud. Find out more about what to do if you be­lieve you’ve been scammed at tele­graph.co.uk/go/fraud.

Do you know what hap­pens when you re­port a fraud? Sam Mead­ows meets the ded­i­cated of­fi­cers try­ing to keep us safe ‘There’s no one in the coun­try who hasn’t ex­pe­ri­enced fraud them­selves’

One on­line scam­mer sold Arse­nal and Chelsea tick­ets that didn’t ac­tu­ally ex­ist

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.