Following on from our spotlight feature on fraud, we explain what we are doing to help prevent fraud, bring offenders to justice and work with victims, and what to do if you think you are a victim of fraud.
What are we doing to help prevent fraud?
Our dedicated team of Fraud Protect Officers (FPOs) help prevent people from becoming victims and aim to reduce the overall impact of fraud. They do this through:
- engaging with the most vulnerable victims of fraud. This may include people who have complex vulnerabilities or may not realise/be in denial that they are a victim of fraud.
- – promoting a wide range of prevention material designed to educate and raise awareness about the threat from fraud and to proactively reduce the number of victims.
- – working closely with Communications colleagues to deliver and contribute to awareness of fraud – locally, regionally and nationally.
- – providing both a reactive and proactive response to victim vulnerability, identifying key trends and patterns of crime. We use an intelligence-led policing approach to help identify new threats in our area.
- – Collaborating closely with stakeholders including safeguarding agencies, financial institutions, and schools and others to help identify victims early and provide support,
- – regularly attending meetings, seminars, conferences, and other forums, delivering briefings and presentations to help raise awareness of fraud.
What are we doing to bring fraudsters to justice?
“We work closely with Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, where all reports of fraud and cybercrime from England, Wales and Northern Ireland should be reported.” Fraud Protect Officer Amy Horrobin explains.
“Action Fraud is run by The City of London Police, who are the national policing lead for economic crime, working alongside the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) who are responsible for assessing all reports, ensuring that fraud reports reach the right place and deciding if a police investigation is required.
“Our Vulnerable Victim of Fraud (VVF) coordinator will assess the reports received by Avon and Somerset Police and determine how we will support the victim, based on vulnerability, harm, loss and impact.
“We will manage investigations and often use key legislation such as the Fraud Act (2006), the Proceeds of Crime Act (2002) and the Theft Act (1968) to bring offenders to justice.”
Fraud offences are often complex and can be long investigations with specialisms required to effectively investigate, such as financial investigation, and cyber related enquiries. They may be additionally complicated if the fraud offences have been conducted overseas.
In addition, offences often have multiple victims associated and require a huge amount of material to be gathered, to enable the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to decide if a suspect can be charged, which can add to the length of the investigation.
Despite these challenges, of 915 outcomes we delivered last year, 38.46% of these were positive.
How do we work with victims?
“As Fraud Protect Officers, we spend a lot of time researching frauds, in order to show victims that they have been misled by the criminals and that fraudulent activity has actually taken place.” Amy explains. “Uncovering the fraud takes a lot of time and research and can often be really upsetting or hard for the victims to hear, so safeguarding and support is a key aspect of the work of our team.
“Our Vulnerable Victims of Fraud Coordinator (VVFC) spends lots of time talking to victims by phone, discussing what they have been through and listening to the impact that this has had on them. Having someone take the time to listen and care, really does make all the difference. It provides a safe space for victims, allowing them to speak knowing that they won’t be judged and due to our understanding of the impact of fraud, victims often feel validated in their feelings.
“During the phone discussions, our VVFC will also help to pick apart the scam, explaining to the victim the complex techniques and technologies that the fraudsters use. They will also give advice. This often helps the victim to find some closure and begin the healing process.”
Protecting yourself from fraud
Our golden rule of fraud is: Take 5, Tell 2.
Take 5: If someone is requesting money or personal information, take five minutes away from the communication and think about what is being asked of you. Criminals will often apply time pressure to make you feel that you need to act quickly. Whatever request is being made, take those five minutes to consider the legitimacy of the request.
Tell 2: Talk to two people about the request. Tell two friends or two trusted people. Talking to two people can help because they might notice something suspicious about the communication and help to protect you. They might have heard about that fraud type and be able to warn you against it. You can even call 101, the police non-emergency number, to ask for advice.
Challenge anyone who calls you unexpectedly and asks for your details, even if they claim to be from your bank or the police. Contact these organisations yourself to confirm it is really them.
What to do if you experience fraud
“If you ever think you have been the target of a fraud or cybercrime, always report it to Action Fraud.” Amy explains. “You can use the online reporting service any time of the day or night, and this enables you to both report a fraud and find help and support. You can also get help and advice over the phone by calling Action Fraud’s fraud and cybercrime specialists on 0300 123 2040.
“You do not need to have lost any money to report the fraud. Even if you receive a suspicious text message or email, it is important to report this, so that we can keep learning how our communities are being targeted. Reporting to Action Fraud means that your report can be linked up to other reports and appropriate action taken. The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau have capabilities such as disruption, intelligence developments, identifying new trends and ways of operating and emerging threats.
“You might receive a text message from a delivery company asking for a redelivery fee, a text from someone claiming to be your child asking for financial help or an email from a friend asking you to buy a gift voucher for them. All these suspicious communications should be reported to Action Fraud, even if you do not respond or receive any further contact as a result.”
Avon and Somerset Police can be contacted directly via 101 or a report made online if you have met the criminal in person, or if any threats have been made against you during the fraud. Always call 999 if you are in immediate danger.
Amy adds: “Fraud can have a huge impact on the confidence of victims, making it hard for them to confide in friends and family about what has happened. However, fraud can happen to anyone, and it is not something to be ashamed of; so, if you know someone who has been affected, please be considerate with your language, be non-judgemental and a safe place for your loved ones and encourage them to report so we can help prevent it happening to others.”