‘No intention to scrap Action Fraud’, says City of London Police

City of London Police says there is “no intention to scrap the Action Fraud service” following recent media claims that it is going to be closed down.

Aug 4, 2021
By Paul Jacques
Assistant Commissioner Angela McLaren

It said the “inaccurate coverage of the future of Action Fraud” had misinterpreted the Government’s Beating Crime Plan, which outlined proposals to “replace Action Fraud with an improved national fraud and cybercrime reporting system and increase intelligence capabilities in the National Crime Agency (NCA)”.

A report in The Times at the end of last week claimed the police’s national fraud reporting service was being scrapped after “damning failings” were exposed in an investigation by the newspaper.

It said Action Fraud will be replaced with “an improved national fraud and cybercrime reporting system” and a “new force dedicated to fighting cybercrime will also be set up within the NCA to investigate the most complex and serious cases”.

However, in a statement issued today (August 4) City of London Police, the national policing lead for fraud, which hosts Action Fraud, said “it was always the intention” to replace its existing system with a new fraud and cybercrime reporting and analysis service in recognition of advances to technology and growing demand.

It announced early last month that it was already in the process of procuring a new state-of-the-art system. Since the service used by Action Fraud and the City of London Police-based National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) was last procured in 2015, technology has advanced and demand has grown considerably (see https://www.policeprofessional.com/feature/lockdowns-an-open-door-for-cybercrime/).

In its initial response to The Times report, City of London Police said: “The Times was issued with a full and proper response to include in their published article, along with answers to more specific questions, and we are disappointed that much of this was unused and the story is not representative of the force’s position.”

City of London Police Assistant Commissioner Angela McLaren said: “I want to reassure the public that the Action Fraud system will remain in operation whilst we procure a new fraud and cybercrime reporting and analysis service. This new service is being procured in recognition of advances to technology and growing demand on the service. In the meantime we will continue to make improvements to the existing system.”

She said the procurement of a new system of reporting will benefit from more up-to-date available technologies, which can help with increased demand.

City of London Police says it is clear the current system needs updating and improving to deal with the change in the national and international fraud and cybercrime landscape, and provide greater integration across law enforcement.

Ms McLaren, who takes over as Commissioner later this year when Ian Dyson retires, added: “As the lead police force for fraud, we know that fraud affects more people than any other crime and is not victimless. We see the effects of fraud on victims every day, not just the financial distress it causes, but also the emotional impact.

“We are committed to providing the best service possible to victims of fraud, either by bringing criminals to justice or by using the intelligence that the public bring to Action Fraud to take down scam websites and phone numbers, preventing people from falling victim to unscrupulous criminals.”

City of London Police said the contract with the current supplier was due to end in 2022 and it was always the intention to procure a new supplier to take on the service beyond this.

It added: “As with all service procurements, this will take some time and we have extended the current contract past its end date in 2022 to ensure a smooth transition period.

“There is no intention to scrap the Action Fraud service; the service provided by Action Fraud is continuing and at no point will there be no system in place to deal with victims of fraud. Victims will continue to have a service and the points of contact will remain the same.”

City of London Police said work is already well-underway to create the new and improved service.

“The system will be designed and procured carefully, with input at every stage from those that use the system. There are currently a number of different companies who believe they have the best solution for a modernised service,” it added.

The new system will improve the service to victims, provide greater intelligence and insight to policing on fraud and cybercrime affecting communities, and allow for greater prevention and disruption at scale.

Action Fraud is the first national system for fraud reporting anywhere in the world. Reports from Action Fraud are assessed by the NFIB, linking similar reports and identifying viable lines of inquiry for police forces and other law enforcement agencies to investigate.

City of London Police says the threat from fraud is increasing. Fraud reports have risen by 27 per cent in the past five years while resourcing in policing has decreased. However, it said it is actively working with police forces and partners across the UK to improve the policing response and ensure that the capability and capacity to tackle fraud is grown. This has included investment into new leadership roles and technology, providing specialist training for police officers and also increased numbers of officers dedicated to fraud, thanks to the policing uplift programme.

City of London Police has a vital coordination role. It acts to support other forces and partner organisations in supplying expertise and operational support in bringing criminals who are intent on defrauding the public to justice. Additionally it has a vital role in preventing people from becoming victims of fraud: as a result of reports into the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) from the public, a tool launched in April 2020 with support from the City of London Police, more than 97,500 web addresses were taken down between April 2020 and June 2021.

City of London Police also plays a vital role in supporting victims of fraud. Action Fraud’s National Economic Crime Victim Care Unit supports victims following a crime and provides them with bespoke and specialist advice to help them better protect themselves from fraud in the future. The unit has been engaging with victims since 2015, including a large number of vulnerable individuals. Out of the victims the unit has engaged with so far, less than one per cent have reappeared on Action Fraud’s system as a repeat victim.

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