The way the police, legislation and businesses view, report and act against fraud has changed rapidly over the past decade. Before 2006 there was no single, legal definition of fraud. Of course, everyone in business knew what it meant and there were plenty that had fallen victim to it. But the lack of a legal context meant that it was a challenge to identify, report and prosecute fraud when it occurred.
The law changed in 2006 with the introduction of the Fraud Act statute books. This clarified the various anomalies that had previously existed, not least the fact that legally you couldn’t commit fraud against a machine – an out-of-date concept in the computer age. The act also removed the necessity to prove a deception had occurred i.e. an unsuccessful fraud would now still be a fraud. It also created three distinct offences, contained within the crime:
1. False Representation i.e. telling a lie whether written or verbal.
2. Failing to disclose information – where someone has a lawful duty to disclose.
3. Abuse of Position e.g. a person occupying a position of trust and dishonestly abuses that position.
The government also created the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), which was tasked with collating all instances of fraud, searching for links between them and, where appropriate, forwarding details to the relevant police force to investigate. The NFIB also established Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber-crime.
However, there remains a general misconception that members of the public, and businesses, must report fraud via Action Fraud as opposed to police forces directly. This is not the case. In much the same way that if you’d been burgled you would call and then expect a service from the police; the same applies to reporting fraud.
Once a “call for service” has been made, the police should not direct victims of fraud to Action Fraud but should take full details and record a crime. Calls for service include where you call the police and the offender is committing, or has recently committed, the fraud; or if you are the victim of a fraud and there’s a known suspect.
At Ultimate Finance, we’re alert to the threat of fraud, whether it’s against us or our customers. We recently supported a client who’d been a victim of identity fraud, by helping them establish the facts they needed to understand how it had happened.
The rise of technology and online data-sharing means the threat of cyber-crime is unfortunately ever-present. By encouraging our staff and customers to recognise fraud, we’re doing everything we can to reduce the risk of it occurring. And, if you do suspect you may be a victim, don’t hesitate to act fast to report the signs.
All businesses – and their employees – have a responsibility to keep an eye out for fraudulent activity: vigilance is key in the battle against cyber criminals.