Victims of fraud are being let down by the police, according to a damning new report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).
HMICFRS warns that ‘inconsistent’ policing across England and Wales is leaving members of the public at risk of scams. However, the report acknowledges that police forces have a number of competing priorities.
HM Inspector Matt Parr says: “One officer told us that fraud does not ‘bang, bleed or shout’ and, as a result, it is not considered a priority. Nonetheless, people are more likely to be victims of fraud than any other crime.”
He continues: “The current model of local investigations supported by national functions is the right one. But processes need to be much more efficient, and performance must be managed to provide the best possible service that available resources will allow.
"We did find examples of local investigators providing victims with excellent service, but they are hampered by the lack of government or national policing strategies for tackling fraud.
"This has profound implications in how forces understand roles and responsibilities, how the public is protected from fraud and how victims of fraud are treated by police forces.”
Of the 11 police forces inspected only four were able to provide evidence of the demand placed on them by fraud. Staff often felt it was their duty to reduce demand on the force, with cases being dropped despite strong evidence for the crime.
Mr Parr adds: “While we acknowledge the pressures on the police service, this simply cannot be acceptable. So we are calling on the police service to make a choice.
"Either continue with the current inconsistent approach, which puts members of the public at a high risk of becoming victims of crime or look at ways to improve that will start to make a difference.”
In particular the report says forces need stronger strategic leadership to tackle fraud, without which fraudsters will continue to act with impunity and victims will feel increasingly disillusioned.
Commenting on the report, Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which? says: “Fraud can have long-lasting and devastating consequences for victims, so it should be a top priority for the government and authorities – but our research has shown that fewer than one in 20 cases reported to Action Fraud is being solved.
"Too often, victims are left feeling abandoned and confused as investigations drag on with little sign of progress.
“To show they are serious about winning the battle against increasingly sophisticated fraudsters, the government, police and banking industry must establish a more coordinated approach and make scams a top priority.”