The national fraud reporting service has been axed after consistently failing victims of the scam epidemic.
Disgraced helpline Action Fraud – the gateway between the police and those hit by financial crime – has faced thousands of complaints.
A review was ordered two years ago after an undercover reporter at a call centre witnessed victims being mocked as ‘morons’ and misled into thinking their cases would be investigated.
It comes as ministers and the police are under mounting pressure to control the fraud crisis which has spiralled out of control in the pandemic.
Pensioners Ralph and Linda Brodie’s case was not passed on to police by Action Fraud despite them being scammed out of £21,000
Scammers have stolen £2.6billion from unwitting victims over the 12 months to this May – up £350million on the previous year. Scams now account for 42 per cent of all crime and cost the economy £4.7billion a year.
The Government’s crime plan, published this week, pledged to provide better support for victims, as well as increase arrests and prosecutions, and put more resources into investigating fraud.
It also stated: ‘We will replace Action Fraud with an improved national fraud and cybercrime reporting system and increase intelligence capabilities in the NCA [National Crime Agency] and the national security community to identify the most harmful criminals and organised criminal gangs.’
The review of fraud policing published last year found criminals were stealing with impunity and called for ‘radical change’.
Action Fraud was founded in 2009. Staff at its outsourced call centre near Glasgow collect crime reports from callers, assess their cases and pass them on to police. But just this week, the Daily Mail revealed how just one in 700 scams resulted in a conviction.
Our £21k bank con wasn’t dealt with
Pensioners Ralph and Linda Brodie’s case was not passed on to police by Action Fraud despite them being scammed out of £21,000.
In January, a crook pretending to be from HSBC’s fraud team called Mr Brodie, 74.
They told him to transfer £21,000 to three new payees at his local branch in St Ives, Cornwall.
The ex-pharmaceutical researcher was told it was just a test to check his account’s security and nothing would actually be taken.
But 15 minutes after the transfer, his money had gone. Mr Brodie said: ‘I gave Action Fraud lots of information and I cannot believe it cannot track these fraudsters down.’
HSBC offered to refund half the money.
The figures also show fraud convictions have fallen by 62 per cent in ten years. Yet reports of investment fraud have soared by 343 per cent since 2017.
As few as one in 200 police officers have been dedicated to fighting fraud, despite it costing the economy billions of pounds every year.
Last year, Pauline Smith, director at Action Fraud, told MPs its call handlers had spoken to 222 suicidal victims in 12 months.
Mark Taber, a campaigner against investment scams, said he feared the helpline was being used as a scapegoat for the Government’s failures.
He said: ‘Action Fraud... does not investigate or prosecute or do any of that stuff that needs to be done. They need to beef up the laws and the sentences.’ In May, the Mail launched its Stamp Out Investment Fraud campaign to demand web giants are made legally responsible for removing scams on their platforms.
Scammers have stolen £2.6billion from unwitting victims over the 12 months to this May – up £350million on the previous year. Scams now account for 42 per cent of all crime and cost the economy £4.7billion a year
Overseen by the City of London police, Action Fraud is currently run by private American firm Concentrix.
The contract runs out next year and firms have until the end of next month to bid to run the replacement service.
Helen Undy, chief executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said those who reported being victims of scams often ‘didn’t feel like they were taken seriously or treated with sensitivity’.