Cifas Chief Intelligence officer calls for status of fraud to be raised by police and wider public sector
A former senior police officer who worked at the highest level in fraud investigations and wider economic crime has called on the service and wider public sector to raise the status of fraud as a crime.
Nick Downing who recently joined leading fraud prevention organisation Cifas has 30 years’ experience
working in economic crime as an ACC at Kent and Essex Police Senior Crime Directorate and with the Met
Police where he was a Det Supt who headed Proceeds of Crime for London working as part of the Specialist
Economic and Organised Crime Command.
Speaking to the Investigator as he set out plans for his new role, Mr Downing said that more resources need
to be put in place to fund a dedicated cadre of fraud investigators whose jobs were ring-fenced so they don't
get abstracted away to other investigations.
“Fraud is a really serious crime that causes great pain and anguish to its victims.” he explained. Yet only one
or two per cent of policing resource across the country is focussed on economic crime despite it being the
biggest crime type.
I know the City of London Police who are the lead force for fraud have done a lot of work to put forward
requests for more resources to tackle this crime. I always dislike talking about policing in terms of numbers
of officers but this is definitely an arena where you need more people,” he said.
“You need them working in a co-ordinated way and you need them to be ring-fenced so they can dedicate
their time to fraud offences.
Mr Downing admitted that numbers alone would not adequately address the crime and that forces will ‘never investigate their way out of the epidemic that is fraud.’
He called on more dedicated fraud protect officers, similar to cyber protect officers to work to educate the public and work with the wider fraud community to prevent the crimes occurring in the first place.
He praised the efforts of the existing fraud investigators who work across departments and at all levels of the police service for their dedication.
His advice to them is to ‘always put the victim first’ and to always keep an open mind in each investigation rather than taking a narrow approach.
“There’s a good chance that there isn’t just one victim who has been affected and the key is to undercover as many victims as you can. Another vital piece of advice is to look at what opportunities there are to disrupt and identify money movement,” he said”
“The wider police family regards fraud as boring but if people keep an open mind then you’d be surprised what other crimes and opportunities you can uncover if you know where to look. It’s not always about getting asset confiscation into policing, It’s about getting compensation back to the victim.”
Mr Downing acknowledged that fraud investigations can often take a number of years to investigate and he advised offers to change their mindset, be proactive and look at alternative offences in order to bring crimes to justice more exponentially.
Cifas is now developing a protect plan and aims to galvanise support from across different sectors and provide a conduit for public and private sector to come together to tackle fraud as one community.
“Our aim is to form a fraud community that is more intelligence led and is taking a joined-up approach and to galvanise all the energy and expertise that exists in the public and private sector.”
Cifas runs a fraud database that helps information sharing between its full members who upload their own data as well as share existing data. They are classed as full members. However, for the first time Cifas is introducing a new status of Community Member to encourage organisations such as the police and local councils to share their data. Community members would be unable to search the database like full membership but they would be able to access and share trends as a way of fostering closer, more joined-up working.
In terms of promoting fraud to the wider public, Mr Downing said there was a perception among the public that fraud is a crime that doesn’t happen to them and that they wouldn’t been foolish enough to fall for the scams. However, he said criminals were becoming more and more convincing and persuasive and that all members of the public, not just the elderly, were vulnerable to be duped.
As a result of this lack of understanding, he called for a national public information campaign to raise awareness and educate the public, pointing to the success of the ‘clunk click with every trip’ campaign which was run in the 1970s to encourage drivers to wear seat belts.
“We need a major public awareness campaign that provides advice to the public about how to protect themselves from fraud. Anyone who has been a victim of fraud needs to be protected and educated in order to prevent them from becoming a victim again.”
For more information about the work of Cifas go to: www.cifas.org.uk