What Is The National Fraud Authority Doing For The Fight Against Fraud?

For some time there has been a general feeling held by public and private sector fraud practitioners that the issue of fraud in the UK was not treated as seriously as it should. Campaigns by bodies such as the Association of Chief Police Officers (“ACPO”), the highly successful regional fraud fora and many others, have gradually raised both the public and the Government’s  awareness of the serious threat that fraud is to individuals, organisations and the economy as a whole. As a result the Government commissioned a 2006 Fraud Review following which in 2008 the Attorney General’s office ring fenced a budget of £29 million to establish a National Strategic Fraud Authority (“NSFA”). Somewhere along the line the new body changed its name to the National Fraud Authority (“NFA”) with a dedicated website at: http://www.attorneygeneral.gov.uk/nfa

There has been little news in the ensuing period concerning the NFA’s activities. Appointments of interim and permanent chief executives were well advertised as with all political posts. One of the first outputs seems to be a survey of the level of fraud in the UK that was published in January 2010. It was this survey that announced that fraud cost the UK some £30.2 billion per year that reminded me of the NFA’s existence and made me wonder what they were currently doing to help deal with the problem of fraud.

It does seem that one of the Authority’s tasks is to roll out details of the progress that they are making together with the general anti-fraud message at various relevant gatherings around the UK. These include speaking slots at the different Fraud Fora events that are held around the country. Therefore it was with much interest that the North West Fraud Forum’s annual conference was attended on 11 February 2010 at the DeVere Whites Hotel in Bolton.

Two out of three talks during the morning session were related to the NFA. However, the very first talk was on a different subject – an interesting piece by Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper, who related a personal experience of identity theft fraud. The talk highlighted the weak and ineffective response the authorities  have historically made to reports of such fraud and Rosie and the audience (which included over 100 respected public and private sector fraud practitioners from around the UK) eagerly awaited the NFA’s report as to how their new thrust would help frustrated victims of fraud like Rosie.

Unfortunately the NFA’s chief executive Dr Bernard Herdan could not make the conference and a last minute substitute of his colleague Cordia Lewis was made. Cordia was an Australian librarian with an MBA. She began her talk be reiterating private sector fraud statistics that had been compiled by the leading accountancy firm KPMG.

Her speech included details of the NFA’s intention to compile a regular Annual Fraud Indicator and an update of the newly established fraud reporting functions of “Action Fraud” for individuals and SMEs or the “National Fraud Intelligence Bureau” for larger organisations and fraud regulators.

Her message was – that if Rosie had experienced identity fraud now she would be able to report the matter to Action Fraud. However, this caused a storm of response from the audience with questions along the line of “do we stop reporting fraud to the police?” and “is this not another level of beaurocracy being inserted into the system?”

The next speaker had a recent example of how the reporting process worked.  Detective Superintendent Steve Clarke of the City of London Police headed up one of this squad’s six fraud groups and which was also the lead force in the coordinating the efforts of the NFA. He also headed up the NFA’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau – the reporting point for major frauds. Steve related the case of Focus Clothing which the City of London is now investigating. This case which has been in the news resulted from over 50 calls to the NFA’s fraud helpline from individuals who had not received goods they had bought online from Focus.

It does seem that there is a lot of talk and good intentions from the NFA but certainly the audience at the North West Fraud Forum were not convinced that reporting a fraud to them would result in any more action than if the fraud was reported to the police or other front line fraud regulator. I discussed the matter with a solicitor, a government company inspector and a private sector fraud investigator all on my table at the conference. Together with my own views as a forensic accountant specialising in fraud matters, the consensus was that the £29 million would be better spent on funding more dedicated fraud squad officers in the various regional police forces!  Only time will tell.

By: Mark Jenner – Forensic Accountant

About Mark Jenner

Mark Jenner is an experienced forensic accountant specialising in fraud and white collar criminal matters. He provides independent financial investigation and expert accounting witness services to police forces, fraud regulators and criminal defence lawyers, also providing assistance and solutions to organisations embroiled in financial disputes.

3 Responses to What Is The National Fraud Authority Doing For The Fight Against Fraud?

  1. We were pleased to be invited to speak to the North West Fraud Forum at its annual conference in Bolton about the work of the National Fraud Authority. We took the opportunity to talk about the key achievements that the organisation has been delivering in response to the National Fraud Strategy, which we published in March 2009.

    It has been a busy time for the NFA, with an ongoing campaign to recruit specialist permanent staff for the next stages of the organisation’s delivery, which involves refocusing activity from strategy to delivery. One of the main projects for the organisation and key discussion point at the North West Forum was Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting centre, which currently is being rolled out regionally.

    In a recent report published by the NFA in December 2009 entitled ‘A Better Deal for Fraud Victims’, which surveyed the largest number of fraud victims to date in the UK, it was revealing that 91 percent of those interviewed wanted a centralised service to report fraud and receive specialist support. The report also showed that no clear path to reporting had existed, identifying over 15 agencies who would take some report of fraud.

    It was for these types of reasons why the Government’s National Fraud Review 2006 specifically indicated a central point for reporting should be established. Action Fraud provides such a service. If a person suspects a fraud crime has been committed against them, they can call the Action Fraud contact centre to report where they will receive a crime number and advice. If appropriate they are referred to Victim Support for further help.

    Although not every crime that is reported will be individually investigated, the information can lead to stopping fraud at its roots. The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, based at the City of London Police collates the information reported to Action Fraud to create and provide intelligence packages to police forces to enable them to conduct investigations.

    As national lead force on fraud, the City of London Police also provides training and support to other forces in fraud investigation.

    In his article, Mr Jenner cited a perfect example of Action Fraud at work with the discovery of the alleged bogus clothing company through a spurt of reporting to the contact centre.

    Not all of the work the NFA has carried out in its two years of existence is as public facing as Action Fraud, however, it is no less important. Initiatives with key partners to encourage data and information sharing is vital to all of the counter-fraud community’s activity, as is ensuring we have as accurate a benchmarking process as possible in place (NFA Annual Fraud Indicator) to ensure we can see the trends and know when we have succeeded.

    Please visit our website http://www.attorneygeneral.gov.uk/nfa to find out more about the work of the NFA or give me a call on 020 3356 1066.

    Peter Wilson
    Director of Engagement
    National Fraud Authority

  2. It’s always interesting to get the varying perspectives of delegates at NWFF conferences. The NWFF are keen to understand what people in the North West think about NFA initiatives, so that we can provide constructive feedback, criticism and suggestion to the Authority. To take part in the debate, please register at http://www.northwestfraudforum.co.uk – the forum link is on the top right hand side of the NWFF home page.

  3. Pingback: Yorkshire & Humberside Fraud Forum | Fraud Advice

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