I picked up a copy of The Times on Friday 16th August to be greeted by a headline on Page 1 “Firm behind Action Fraud faces sack after betrayal of victims.” I can’t say that I was surprised. As some of you will know, I suffered the indignancy of having my identity stolen a few years ago and I ended up making multiple calls to Action Fraud as the size of the fraud increased. At no time did I feel that anything was going to come of the Identity Theft reports I had made, but I dutifully logged down the numbers which they issued me with.
Identity theft is a terrible thing and one that could have serious implications for the victim, particularly when considering the mental health consequences. I was rightly concerned, but the way in which the real victims – in my case – took the news when I informed them they had been duped, allowed me to get on with my work and life, But I would still think about how this crime could be stopped, especially when the first ‘supplier’ visited my home, chasing me for money.
As an auditor, I sat down and considered my options. Register with the credit agencies was instant advice from my golf partner and this was crucial as it showed how many references had been made against my name by the building merchants who had been deceived. I took a morning to call them and found most of the credit accounts to be up to the unsecured credit limits offered. I widened my search courtesy of Yell in the local area and found further suppliers caught up in the Identity theft scam.
Reporting Identity Theft
I wrote it all down, compiling a schedule of value (which kept growing) and visited the local Police Station to report the crime. I was ordered out of the Station. There was no one there who could help me. You have to call these people and was pointed to the Action Fraud poster that adorns reception. And so I did. They listened to the detailed information I provided them with and gave me a crime number – each time. They didn’t want to link it to the previous numbers they had given.
My experience was one of frustration and I genuinely felt I could do a better job of solving the crime, mainly because the number of people and information I was discovering was widening. I was speaking to the head of fraud in a number of national businesses who were very willing to share information in an effort to get help – because these people deal with them every day but as different people.
I was told by Action Fraud that the City of London Police Force would look into the identity theft cases that they felt would offer most opportunity of being solved, but I couldn’t see how this could be determined as the call handlers at Action Fraud showed no inquisitive tendencies whatsoever, without which the telling would get lost in their recording. I hope I wasn’t labelled a ‘moron’, ‘psycho’ or ‘screwball’ by them, as reported by The Times, and they certainly didn’t mislead me into thinking that my case would be investigated. In fact I was absolutely sure that it wouldn’t be, making it a useless organisation in my opinion.
My impression was a large computer server filled with reports that were never going to be read again. I am therefore delighted that Police Scotland have withdrawn their financial support for the organisation. but I would question why it has taken so long for them to reach such a conclusion.
Fraud is a growing problem in the society in which we live and we all need to take greater steps to protect ourselves so that our vulnerability decreases if someone tries to deprive us of our assets. As the old saying goes, “if something sounds too good to be true then it probably is” and therefore always take opportunities to pause or delay when making financial decisions and never disclose pin numbers or bank account details when asked.
Always review emails and never click on links if you don’t know who they are from – and even if you do – always consider the email address accompanying the name to make sure they correspond. You can never bother the IT department enough over such messages, for the one time you don’t could prove to be the most costly.
Unfortunately, I had to call Action Fraud. The undercover investigation by The Times may mean that we don’t have to do so in the future and if that comes to pass, I hope that its replacement will be more enquiring and show some ability to link reports together. Certainly, experience in investigation when handling calls would also be welcome. I am sure that there exists retired police officers who would be able to offer the public an improved service whilst picking up a salary for doing so. Their enquiring minds would be eminently more valuable than someone going through the motions, leaving our 20,000 new Policemen to tackle other areas that have got out of control.
The undercover investigation by the Times into Action Fraud’s handling of cases can be found here…
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the Author and other professionals may express different views. They may not be the views of Lambert Chapman LLP. The material in the article cannot and should not be considered as exhaustive. Professional advice should be sought in connection with any of the issues contained in the article and the implementation of any actions.