Hundreds of thousands of fraud reports delayed in police IT backlog
Up to 400,000 fraud reports may not have been referred to police over a period of at least 15 months because of an IT issue, a Which? Money investigation can reveal.
The failure stemmed from a breakdown in information shared between the National Fraud Database, maintained by Cifas, which describes itself as “the UK’s leading fraud prevention service”, and the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).
Which? found the data was not automatically shared between Cifas and City of London Police from October 2018, when the City of London Police started developing a new crime-reporting service.
While the system was being developed, the NFIB was unable to make use of the data feed which contained details about the cases, meaning communication was limited to Cifas responding to requests from police on a case-by-case basis.
This means hundreds of thousands of cases – many of which are likely to involve significant sums of money – may have been investigated without crucial pieces of evidence, or potentially not at all.
While the system had still not been implemented in January this year, the NFIB is now able to upload the information provided by Cifas.
Which?’s projections reveal that at least 300,000 crimes may not have been shared since the issue began, but that number could be as high as 400,000.
The findings are the latest in a series of alarming revelations about the system for investigating fraud in the UK – a crime that Action Fraud said cost victims £2.2 billion between April 2018 and March 2019.
The revelation comes as separate Which? research reveals how investigators are being further hampered in the fight against fraud because such a small proportion of crimes are reported.
Analysis of the Office for National Statistics’ Crime Survey, which provides estimates of the true scale of various offences, shows that just one in seven frauds are being reported to the police, making it the most under-reported of all the major crime groups.
The data shows that the estimated number of fraud crimes was close to four million in the past year – outnumbering the volume of thefts, burglaries and robberies combined – but just 15 per cent of these were reported to the police or Action Fraud directly in the year to March 2019.
The statistics reveal that an estimated 40 per cent of fraud that went unreported to the police was reported to banks and other financial institutions.
However, the significant disruption of data shared between the National Fraud Database and the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau serves as an important reminder that not reporting fraud to the police could seriously impede attempts to fully investigate scams.
As many fraudsters target multiple victims through online scams, any relevant phone numbers, account numbers or email addresses could be of use to overstretched police – and help improve currently pitiful fraud investigation success rates.
Which? is calling for Cifas and City of London Police to account for the unacceptably long breakdown in fraud reporting.
The consumer champion is also advising fraud victims to report scams to the police, even if they get all of their money reimbursed – as is the case for nine out of 10 bank and credit account fraud victims who suffered a financial loss.
Jenny Ross, Which? Money Editor, said:
“The UK is in the grip of a fraud crisis and, with police already struggling with complex investigations, it beggars belief that one of the country’s most crucial reporting tools did not function properly for so long.
“People are suffering from the devastating financial and emotional impact of scams every day, and victims need to know the authorities are taking these crimes seriously.
“To restore public confidence in the UK’s ability to fight fraud and deter criminals, it’s vital that the government, industry and police work together effectively to show they are addressing serious flaws in the system.”
- The National Fraud Database logs fraud reports from organisations including banks, building societies or credit providers, as well as other bodies such as the Home Office. In theory, these are shared with the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) “on a daily basis, to support the development of crime packages disseminated to UK police for investigation and prosecution”.It is separate to the police’s Action Fraud service, used by members of the public to report scams, but is seen as a crucial tool that provides vital clues in the police’s fight to solve complex fraud investigations.
- Cifas said: “Cifas has continually made its data available to NFIB since its inception. During development of its new system NFIB was unable to make use of the Cifas data feed, and during this period we continued to support City of London Police by manually supplying data to support their investigations. The NFIB has recently confirmed that their new system has been implemented and Cifas data has now been uploaded successfully.”
- City of London Police said: “Technical difficulties which prevented reports from CIFAS feeding in to City of London Police systems have been resolved. The vast majority of outstanding reports – over 95% – have now been brought across, and new records are routinely feeding in on a daily basis.”
- Crime reporting by category
|Total crimes (000s)
|Total police reported crimes (000s)
|Bank and credit account fraud
|Consumer and retail fraud
|Advance fee and other fraud
Source: ONS, Apr 18 to Mar 19