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New UK fraud strategy aims to shut down scammers at source

Fraudsters and scammers face being shut down at source under a new national fraud strategy unveiled by the Government.

The moves come as the UK faces disturbing levels of fraud, now believed to be the UK’s commonest crime with an estimated 1 in 15 people falling victim and costing up to £7bn.

New measures include plans to block fraudulent emails and other communications at origin as well as allowing suspect payments to be delayed.

Cold calls will be banned on financial products, ministers said.

New technology to prevent number “spoofing”, where criminals impersonate legitimate UK phone numbers, will be introduced by the regulator Ofcom.

Banks will also be allowed to delay payments from being processed to allow for suspect payments to be investigated.
The Government proposes to ban methods being used by criminals to reach thousands of people at once – such as so-called “sim farms” used to send multiple texts simultaneously.

The much-criticised Action Fraud service is to be replaced by a new system, making it easier for victims to report fraud and rebuild public confidence that cases are being dealt with.

A new National Fraud Squad will overhaul how scams are investigated backed by 400 new specialist investigators, the Home Office said.

Graeme Biggar, director general of the National Crime Agency, said: “We want fraudsters to feel the same vulnerability they inflict upon their victims, as we target their infrastructure, expose their identities and bring them to justice.”

A new anti-fraud champion, Anthony Browne MP, has been appointed. He said tech, phone and financial service companies would need to do more to help prevent fraud. Social media companies will be asked to provide systems to enable consumers to report fraud quickly and easily at the click of a button.

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said: “Scammers ruin lives, deceiving people in order to line their pockets.

“We will take the fight to these fraudsters, wherever they try to hide.

“By blocking scams at the source, boosting protections for people and bolstering enforcement, we will stop more of these cold-hearted crimes from happening in the first place and make sure justice is done.”

The Labour Party said the plan was “too little, too late”, while consumer champion magazine Which? welcomed the strategy but criticised the Government for not acting sooner.

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “The fight against fraud has progressed far too slowly in recent years and in particular more action is needed to guarantee that big tech platforms take serious action against fraud.”

She added: “Ultimately, consumers will judge the success of this strategy by whether they end up with better fraud detection, prevention, support and redress.”

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper arrives at BBC Broadcasting House in London, to appear on the BBC One current affairs programme, Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg. Picture date: Sunday October 30, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Tory. Photo credit should read: Aaron Chown/PA Wire
Caption: Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper called the new strategy ‘too little, too late.’
Photo: Aaron Chown/ PA

Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, said: “This plan is too little, too late and fails to match the scale of the problem. All the Home Secretary has delivered is a rebadging of existing national teams, and a reannouncement on the replacement of Action Fraud from almost two years ago.”

The Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Alistair Carmichael, said: “The Fraud Squad is just a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed to protect fraud victims. These plans will also put even more of a burden on local police forces which are already overstretched.”

The new strategy comes after the Home Office, which has ultimate responsibility for combating fraud has faced repeated criticism for failing to get a grip on the size of the problem in the past five years.

A damning report by MPs on the influential Public Accounts Committee said law enforcement groups including the police are “overwhelmed” by the volume and complexity of the crimes, lacked training and resources to properly fight the problem and fraud victims felt “lost in the system”, they warned.

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