The Government aims to tackle fraud once and for all with its new strategy

By Joshua Taggart, Junior Consultant

Yesterday, the Government  unveiled its new National Fraud Strategy, which sets out a comprehensive plan to tackle fraud across the UK. The Strategy is a collaboration between law enforcement agencies, government departments, and – notably - private sector entities through collaborative ‘charters’ to promote best practice. This strategy aims to improve the UK’s prevention, detection, and prosecution of fraud and sets out clear targets and methods for doing so. However, the plan may require greater funding and expertise if it is to be successful.

Fraud has become a serious problem in the UK. It has been growing fast in recent years, with over 40% of crime in England and Wales now relating to fraud. According to the latest ONS figures, there were an estimated 4.7 million fraud and computer misuse offences in England and Wales in 2021. This represents an increase of 31% compared to the previous year. The economic impact of fraud is also significant, with the estimated cost to the UK economy being around £190 billion per year. Fraud ruins lives and has tragic consequences for its victims, with the perpetrators sometimes not ever stepping foot inside the United Kingdom.

The National Fraud Strategy sets out several key objectives to tackle this problem. One of the main objectives is to improve the prevention of fraud across all technologies and sectors, from scam calls to social media pop-up ads.  This Strategy aims to do this by working with the private sector to develop new ways to fight fraud and developing ‘charters’ with different industries such as insurance, banking and Big Tech.

It also aims to improve public awareness of fraud and how to protect against it, especially among vulnerable groups. Public awareness is a crucial piece of the puzzle – empowering individuals and families to notice a fraudulent advert or message will prevent many scams from ever resulting in monetary loss. The Strategy notes that over 35% of fraud in the UK results in no loss, meaning a scam occurred but the victim didn’t fall for it. The Government aims to increase this figure and make as many members of the public ‘scam-savvy’ as possible.

Another key objective of the Strategy is to improve the detection of fraud. This includes improving the way in which fraud is reported, investigated, and prosecuted. The Strategy aims to develop new data analytics tools and improve the sharing of information between law enforcement agencies and the private sector. This should help to identify and track fraudsters more effectively, using the benefits of digital transformation in the public sector to increase efficiency.

Further, the Strategy also includes a focus on improving the prosecution of fraud. This includes working with the Crown Prosecution Service to develop new approaches in prosecuting fraud cases, especially for those committing thousands of frauds every day  through mass communication. It also includes improving the training of prosecutors and developing new guidance for judges to ensure that fraud cases are dealt with effectively.

One of the key strengths of this National Fraud Strategy is its collaborative approach. The Strategy brings together a range of different stakeholders, including law enforcement agencies, government departments, and the private sector. This collaboration is essential if we are to tackle the growing problem of fraud effectively. Fraud as a concept may be simple, but how it happens is becoming more complex and sophisticated as scammers improve their tactics. The Government needs to take a cross-sector and cross-discipline approach if it’s to keep up.

The Strategy also recognizes the importance of international cooperation in tackling fraud. Fraudsters often operate across borders, and it is therefore essential that we work with other countries to share information and coordinate our efforts. The strategy includes a focus on improving international cooperation, particularly with our European partners.

The National Fraud Strategy is a welcome development, and an important step in tackling the growing problem of fraud across the UK. However, there are some potential challenges that will need to be overcome if the strategy is to be successful.

One of the main challenges is ensuring that the Strategy is adequately funded. The government has committed £100 million, but it is not clear whether this will be sufficient to deliver on all the objectives set out in the Strategy. Additional funding may be required if we are to develop the new technologies and techniques needed to prevent and detect fraud effectively.

Another challenge is ensuring that the Strategy is implemented effectively across all sectors and industries. This will require a significant amount of coordination and cooperation between different stakeholders. However, it is essential that the Government works closely with the private sector and other stakeholders to ensure that the strategy is implemented effectively. The charters will work towards this, but the Government must be prepared to set out strong codes of practice for companies and industries which fail to take responsibility for what happens under their roof. The codes of practice within the Online Safety Bill are a useful analogue for this, requiring companies to work collaboratively with an independent regulator - Ofcom for the Online Safety Bill, the Financial Conduct Authority for this Strategy - to ensure they’re doing what is reasonable and practical to tackle fraud.

The National Fraud Strategy is a positive development in the fight against fraud in the UK. It sets out a clear plan to improve the prevention, detection, and prosecution of fraud, while also recognising the importance of collaboration and international cooperation. However, ensuring continued adequate funding and effective implementation will be essential if we are to make progress and protect the public.

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