‘Shockingly low’ amount of fraud cases being solved – Which? reveals

New Which? analysis suggests the authorities are losing the battle against fraud – with fewer than one in 20 reported fraudulent crimes solved as criminals steal almost £200bn a year through a range of ever more sophisticated scams.

Official statistics suggest that more than 96 per cent of crimes reported to Action Fraud are closed without a successful outcome. This compares with 84 per cent of thefts, 80 per cent of robberies, and 73 per cent of violent offences in 2016-17.

Figures obtained by the consumer champion through freedom of information requests also reveal that most UK police forces have seen a substantial drop in their success rate for investigating fraud – with some solving more than 40 per cent fewer cases in 2016 than in 2014.

More than two thirds of the country’s 43 local police forces responded to a request for data on fraud cases. Of those that responded, 29 out of 30 had seen their performance slip between 2014-2016.

Nearly all of them saw their performance fall by more than 20%, while 10 forces saw their solved rate plummet by more than 40%.

The data provided by local forces varied in consistency of measurement across individual forces, so individual forces cannot be compared but the figures act as an indicator of broad overall performance across police forces.

Alarmingly, this comes at a time when online fraud is on the rise. Fraud and computer hacking are now 10 times more common than burglary with overall fraud estimated to be approaching £200bn a year, according to Action Fraud.

The police might well struggle through a combination of budget cuts and fraud being a difficult crime to investigate. Meanwhile, police also have a duty to prioritise other types of crime – such as violent crime for example.

Which? found a lack of transparency around fraud statistics. While success rates for most types of crime were published in the Home Office Crime Outcomes report, the figures for fraud were buried in a submission by City of London Police to the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Which? believes there could be issues with the current system for investigating fraud.

The process can be incredibly slow – with assessment of a report by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) taking up to six weeks before it is even sent to a local police force. The NFIB attributes this delay partly to the process of requesting data from banks, which can take weeks.

Which? is encouraging people to treat all unsolicited contact with great caution and not to give sensitive, personal information away over the phone or via email to unconfirmed sources.

Ceri Stanaway, Which? Money Editor, said:

“The shockingly low success rate for fraud investigations is leaving many victims deprived of justice and suggests the authorities are fighting a losing battle against this type of crime.

“Unfortunately, investigations are often conducted at a slow pace – with communication between banks and the authorities often dragging on for weeks before police can launch a full inquiry.

“We’d urge consumers to be extremely cautious when dealing with unsolicited contact – as fraud is on the rise.”

Notes to editors

Action Fraud and reporting fraud

A centralised reporting system was established in 2009. Action Fraud, and its sibling agency, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), are at the heart of this process. Both are branches of the City of London Police, which has historic expertise in battling economic crime. Most victims of fraud in the UK should report an incident directly to Action Fraud. Individual reports are then passed on to the NFIB, where connected cases are pooled into a single investigation package. The NFIB doesn’t carry out investigations. Instead, it assesses whether there is a viable line of enquiry and, if so, forwards the investigation to another agency. In most cases, this is a local police force, typically the one where the suspect resides.

Which? advice on how to spot scams: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/scams

There are two strands of research in this press release.

Strand one

Our “96% unsolved” figure is derived from the number of crimes reported to Action Fraud which are disseminated to local forces (around 25% in recent years), combined with the outcomes of local police force investigations in 2016-17 (85% case closed unsolved, 12.1% investigation ongoing, 3.1% solved) – these secondary figures were obtained from a City of London submission to the Home Affairs Select Committee in January of this year. (see table at bottom of this: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/policing-for-the-future/written/77600.html)

Combining these figures with the 25% dissemination rate suggests that of the total, 0.8% were solved, with 3% of cases ongoing, and 96% case closed unsolved.

“Solved” is defined as when a suspect is charged, cautioned or dealt with in some other way by the justice system.


Offence group


Not Solved

Investigation ongoing

Violence against the person




Sexual offences




of which: Rape








Theft offences




Criminal damage and arson




Drug offences




Possession of weapons offences




Public order offences




Misc. crimes against society




Action Fraud





(All non fraud offence outcomes on page 19 of Home Office Crime Outcomes publication: (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/633048/crime-outcomes-hosb0917.pdf) (Fraud statistics in this publication do not relate to police recorded crime and are not particularly meaningful, which is why Which? has investigated.)

Strand two

In the summer of 2018, Which? Money sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the UK’s 43 territorial police forces. We asked them to provide the results of fraud investigations carried out in the previous four years, from 2014 – 2017. Two thirds responded, showing that 29 out of 30 police forces showed a decline in their case-solving success rate.

Forces marked with an asterix [*] disclosed a very low number of total resolved crimes and should be treated with supreme caution – we have included them to add to the overview of our findings but do not believe they provide a trusted picture of the relevant force. Significant differences between forces are likely to be due to the complicated fraud reporting model: we believe some forces have only included frauds directly recorded, and not those passed on by Action Fraud/NFIB, while some included both, and others only included NFIB crimes. Ongoing investigations and those forwarded to other agencies aren’t included. As many 2017 investigations are still ongoing, meaning these figures are likely to change.

Police force figures look much healthier than our national “less than 4% solved” finding because they do not include the 75% of all frauds which the NFIB never forwards on.

In addition, these figures may include frauds directly acted on by local police without being forwarded on by Action Fraud, further explaining inconsistencies with our main analysis.

The quality of the data was inconsistent because of complications about the way fraud is reported and therefore the table below shouldn’t be used to compare forces.

% of crimes solved

Press Release