The UK and the USA appear to be the biggest targets for the fraudster by far. This may be as a result of our sociological or demographic characteristics. One thing is for sure, fraud is a problem that costs our respective economies billions and deserves adequate resources and investment to deal with it.
In the UK there are a number of developments in the pipeline. The National Fraud Reporting Centre is one that is being developed by the Home Office that will eventually be a repository for data on all frauds that are occurring. Many other incentives are in the pipeline or are being set up by police forces and other fraud agencies around the country.
However, these public sector fraud regulatory organisations need to do more than managing statistics and setting up fraud awareness sections on their web sites. They need to respond to all frauds when they occur and be seen to be dealing with them.
The credit fantasy bubble of recent years has now burst, causing the greatest and deepest recession in recorded history and has impacted the UK and USA the most. The response of both countries by the Labour and Democratic parties has been to throw vast amounts of public money at the problem to shore up the banks and to encourage them to start lending again – i.e. return to the old ways? The upshot of this huge increase in balance of payments is the admittance, even by the socialist Labour party in the UK, that something must give and that the wastage in public spending must be reduced in order to fund the bail out of the banks.
Socialist governments generally do not see massive spending on the public sector as wastage, but even the Conservatives and Republicans would not argue that sensible funding of serious fraud crime agencies is not frittering of funds. Therefore it is worrying to see that the Serious Fraud Office in the UK is dropping its overall budget from £50.9 million in 2008/2009 to £44.3 million in 2009/2010. This is a fall of 13% and despite the common understanding that there will be a rise in the number of cases needing attention, if all the messages of the past century’s similar less severe recessions are to be believed.
A case needs to be presented for increased spending, a more unified approach, public and private partnerships and, yes, even a fuller understanding of the scale of fraud through a joined up National Fraud Reporting Centre.
Mark Jenner is a fraud specialist. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, a Certified Fraud Examiner and has a Masters Degree in Fraud Management. This article and others can be accessed on his Fraud Advice Web Site.