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On Wednesday, Britain announced its strategy for reducing fraud by 10% by the end of the current parliament to protect the public from scammers, a move which has been criticised by experts as ineffective in the face of rising crime rates.
In an attempt to rectify the growing rate of crime and instil effective mitigation, further actions have been taken with the introduction of an investigative body consisting of 400 people. Furthermore, the UK government announced the ban on cold calls to prevent promoting financial products, sham cryptocurrency schemes and “SIM farms.”
“The publication of this strategy marks a fundamental shift in our approach to tackling fraud,” said home secretary, Suella Braverman. “This strategy sets out a plan to stop fraud at source and pursue those responsible wherever they are in the world,” she added.
Experts have indicated that the measures lack ambition and will not be sufficient to reduce fraud, which resulted in more than 40% of crime in England and Wales as of December and cost the United Kingdom at least £6.8 billion in 2019-2020.
A proposal that would have required tech companies to compensate victims of online financial scams, for example, has been dropped in favour of a voluntary “online fraud charter” that the government plans to announce at the beginning of the summer.
The watered-down measures did not meet the needs of Helena Wood, co-head of RUSI’s UK economic crime program. “Unless you start doing something a bit more hard-line to bring these companies to the table, they won’t take any action,” she added, “We’d be hoping to see the strategy consider a mandatory levy on social media and tech companies to pay for the police response to fraud — what I’d liken to a ‘polluter pays’ principle.”
However, she cautioned that adding 400 specialist fraud roles within police forces and the National Crime Agency would not be sufficient to combat domestic crime. “There are fraudsters who operate within the UK, and we could do much more to bring these people to justice,” said Wood. “Four hundred extra officers is not enough.”
Earlier this year, Matt Hammerstein, chief executive of Barclays UK, warned that Britain was “losing the war” against scams and that online platforms must be better regulated to combat criminal activity online. “Our data shows that 77% of scams originate on tech platforms, including social media sites and online marketplaces,” he said. “Without a legislative or regulatory framework for this sector — as we rightly have for banks — we risk continuing to not treat fraud and scams with the seriousness they require.”
The firm of Stokoe Partnership Solicitors, led by Richard Cannon, said that the enforced measures are insufficient to prevent illicit financial crimes and frauds associated with digital assets such as bitcoins, which are largely unregulated. “Outlawing cold calls peddling fraudulent crypto schemes is a drop in the ocean compared with the fraudulent investment schemes that proliferate online, which crypto fraudsters favour for attracting victims,” Cannon added to the statement.
Furthermore, dissatisfaction was expressed by experts that the government has not created a single agency to coordinate the resources used to combat fraud currently being handled by 19 government departments and 42 police departments.
“This needs focus. Creating a single scam authority with effective powers of direction will make the difference and enable us all to get ahead of the scammers,” according to Simon Miller, director of policy and communications for Stop Scams UK. This group includes significant technology companies, banks and telecommunications companies.