The government has announced a new initiative to counter fraudulent activity, particularly in the financial sector.
You might not be surprised to learn that fraud is now the most common crime in England and Wales, although you may not be aware that it accounts for more than 40% of all crime. The growth in fraud has so far not been accompanied by a corresponding increase in prevention measures. At present, less than 1% of police resource is directed towards dealing with fraud.
In May, the Home Secretary announced a new fraud strategy – Stopping Scams and Protecting the Public. The Home Office’s plans include:
Stopping abuse of the telecom networks: Many scams start with unsolicited calls and text messages. The government says it will be “making it harder” for criminals to spoof phone numbers, which make their calls appear to be coming from your bank or another trusted source. Under the same heading, the government has launched a consultation on banning SIM farms, devices that can send thousands of fraudulent texts in a matter of seconds.
A ban on cold calling on investment products: Currently, there is a ban on cold calls from personal injury firms and pension providers (unless the consumer has explicitly agreed to be contacted). The government plans to extend this ban to all investment products, with an initial consultation on the mechanics “by summer”. The logic behind this move is that the ban will mean that anyone receiving such a call will know it is unauthorised – assuming they are aware of the law.
More protection for fraud victims: If you are a victim of unauthorised fraud (such as bank card theft), you are entitled by law to be reimbursed by your bank within 48 hours. However, if you fall foul of authorised fraud – for example, by being tricked into transferring money – you are currently not eligible for the same level of protection. The Financial Services and Markets Bill, currently on its way through parliament, will remove this distinction.
These and the many other proposals will inevitably take time to reach the statute book and, as now, will encounter the problem of offshore and ever more creative fraudsters. In the meantime, there is one sound piece of advice – if you receive an unsolicited call from your bank, the police or anyone else, tell them you will call them back on the number you have (e.g. on your bank card). A scammer will do everything to prevent that happening, but a genuine caller will have no such issue.
Find out more about the latest fraud strategy here.