Fraud is when trickery is used to gain a dishonest advantage, often financial, over another person.

The impact of fraud goes beyond financial losses. Fraud victims can suffer feelings of anger, betrayal, a lack of trust, a loss of confidence and a fear of judgement.

Fraud impacts people, industries, public bodies, services, and the environment; all of these can be irreversibly harmed by fraudulent activities. Understanding the wider impact of fraud and not just the financial loss allows public bodies to make informed decisions and protect people from fraud.

Action Fraud

Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime for those who have been scammed, defrauded, or experienced cyber-crime in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

They provide a central point of contact for information about fraud and financially motivated internet crime. The service is run by the City of London Police alongside the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) who are responsible for the assessment of the reports and ensuring that fraud reports reach the right place.

Action Fraud National Economic Victim Care Unit (AF NECVCU)

The (Action Fraud) National Economic Crime Victim Care Unit is a targeted service providing victims of fraud and cyber-crime a consistent national standard of care and support. The NECVCU provide a 3-level service that is determined by the vulnerability of each victim. The aim of the service is to:

  • Make victims feel safer and more confident following contact, while helping them cope and recover from the crime
  • Provide support to significantly reduce the likelihood of repeat vicitmisation
  • Close gaps in the victim referral and support system, without duplicating work or effort, while reducing demand on police forces

The NECVCU Levels are as follows:

  • Level 1 – Victim Contact which gives appropriate support to less complex cases (non-vulnerable vicitms.) This is provided by the Action Fraud Contact centre and is currently assisting 20 forces nationally.
  • Level 2 – Victim Care handles more complex and difficult cases (based around an assessment of vulnerability of the victim). This service is provided by the AF NECVCU based in City of London Police and currently provides services to 6 forces nationally.
  • Level 3 – Where serious risks of harm arise following contact with victims a police force response may be required. This local level support focuses on safeguarding and supporting the most vulnerable at-risk individuals, using a multi-agency approach and/or to manage other issues identified through level 1 and/or level 2 contact (e.g domestic violence).

The service is focused and targeted (to national standards). Victims are contacted by phone and offered the service, increasing the potential number of who can be reached.

There is evidence that this interaction not only leaves victims feeling safer but the risk of repeat victimisation will be significantly reduced.

How this integrates with police forces is flexible and can be adapted to what is already in place – although there is a need to be able to refer certain vulnerable victims for further contact.

Impact so Far

127, 361 victims have been contacted through the NECVCU and levels of victim vulnerability have been recognised and addressed. Appropriate and necessary safeguarding support is put in place and out of the 127,361 referrals, only 41 are repeat victims (0.03%).

An estimated £1,674,816 of financial losses have been prevented and £955,725 has been returned to victims. The AF NECVU capture satisfaction rates from victims they engage with, this shows a consistent satisfaction rate of 82% for the Level 1 service and up to 87% for the Level 2 service.

Cyber Protect Expert

The Cyber Protect Expert was introduced in January 2021 by Action Fraud to support victims of cyber fraud. AF NECVCU Level 1 advisors were utilised to fight cybercriminals and their tools which include spyware, malware, and ransomware.

The project found that criminals of cyber fraud were likely to target people over the age of 60, particularly vulnerable people. The Cyber Protect Expert service offered people:

  • Advice on how to change router and wi-fi passwords
  • Advice on how to protect themselves from related scams
  • Advice on how to identify the tricks adopted by scammers

Feedback by users of the service has been positive, with 60% of victims taking the advice. In June the target group was increased to include over 50’s as well.

By the end of 2022, Action Fraud hope to have this service embedded in every police force in the country, enabling them to support victims of this type of crime.

Action Fraud Communications

Action Fraud is a victim-focused service, in order to support victims they need to identify emerging threats and trends. A yearly campaign is run, based on the trends identified to raise awareness about the role and remit of Action Fraud and to encourage people to report.

The communications campaign aims to increase public understanding by working closely with partners to highlight the work being done nationally within the fraud and cybercrime landscape.

The communications provide people with the latest information on emerging threats and trends by publishing real-time alerts. For example, dating fraud is rife around the 14th of February and this information is shared through the Action Fraud website.

Pet Fraud Campaign

An example of a communications campaign run by Action Fraud was the Pet Fraud campaign launched in July 2021. It aimed to raise awareness of online pet fraud after £2.5 million was lost to fake pet adverts in 2020/21.

Fraudsters were capitalising on the rise in people getting pets due to lockdown. Criminals were positing fake adverts on social media, online marketplaces and specific pet selling platforms.

The campaign achieved 12.2 million impressions and reached 5.2 million, making it the most successful pet fraud campaign delivered by Action Fraud.

Fraud during Covid-19

A Covid-19 campaign was run by Action Fraud through the course of the pandemic. Working with police forces and the government, Action Fraud worked to amplify timely and relevant messaging.

The campaign worked to raise awareness of high-risk and emerging coronavirus-related fraud and cybercrime. They collaborated with industry partners to provide clear and unambiguous protection advice.

Examples of fraud during the pandemic include:

  • Lockdown loneliness led to 600 reports of online fraud a month
  • Around 60% of midsized UK businesses were hit by fraud in 2020
  • Scammers targeted people in lockdown with fake text messages and calls claiming they must pay a fine for breaching rules

The coronavirus protection campaign achieved 106 million impressions and reached 37 million. It gained national coverage in the Daily Mail, Telegraph, Independent, Sky News, The Sun and the Mail Online. Action Fraud wants victims to know that although embarrassment can be a common reaction when falling victim to fraud, even the most careful people can be caught out. Through effective campaigning and thorough victim support, awareness can be gained, and criminals can be stopped in their tracks.

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Falling victim of fraud can be extremely distressing, causing emotional and financial damage. This case study examines the work of Action Fraud in supporting victims of fraud and educating potential victims to prevent fraud from taking place.

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