New research conducted by the Police Foundation and Perpetuity Research has found that between 31% and 45% of fraud may be linked to organised crime. This is up to three times higher than the 15% level found in previous studies.
The research, which was funded by The Dawes Trust, looked at a large sample of frauds taking place in the Midlands and the South West. It found that fraud linked to organised crime was more harmful to victims than other types of fraud. On average, individual victims of organised fraud were likely to lose significantly more money per fraud offence (£10,260) than victims of non-organised fraud (£3,982).
Professor Martin Gill CSyP FSyI, director of Perpetuity Research and one of the research report’s authors, said: “We know that fraud, and particularly online fraud, is the new volume crime. Our research shows that organised crime groups play a much larger role in fraud than has previously been estimated, and that fraud linked to organised crime causes much more harm than other types of fraud.”
Investment fraud was most likely to be linked to organised crime, with around 70% of this fraud type estimated to be perpetrated by organised crime groups. Between a third (38%) and over a half (59%) of mass-marketing fraud is estimated to be linked to organised crime.
The research also found that the police response to fraud was inadequate. Unlike traditional crime types such as burglary and vehicle crime, victims who report a fraud rarely receive a visit from a police officer or any other official.
Response to organised fraud
There are many agencies holding a wide range of powers which could bolster the local response to organised fraud. However, at present these agencies only work together on an ad hoc basis and systematic data sharing is virtually non-existent.
Given the complexity, the expense and the low success rate of fraud investigations, a more problem-oriented, multi-agency approach would, the researchers argue, be somewhat more effective.
Police Foundation director Rick Muir explained: “Despite its increasing scale across the UK, fraud doesn’t currently receive the recognition it deserves and tends to fall between the gaps of a number of agencies, including the police. While the offenders of organised fraud are difficult to prosecute, it’s clear there are vulnerable victims to safeguard, communities to protect and crimes to be prevented. It’s more important than ever to ensure that agencies and authorities don’t relinquish their responsibilities in tackling it.”
On average, Action Fraud receives details on 25,000 reported frauds per month. Based on the researchers’ estimates, this means that between 7,000 and 12,000 reported frauds could be perpetrated by organised criminals every month.
In practice, only a small proportion of these incidents are ever investigated by police forces. Furthermore, forces are not systematically recording the outcomes of fraud investigations, and are therefore not being properly held to account.