Scammers should be treated like violent criminals, senior anti-fraud officer tells LBC

12 February 2024, 11:23 | Updated: 12 February 2024, 11:29

Scammers should be treated like violent criminals, senior anti-fraud officer tells LBC

By Jenny Medlicott

A senior anti-fraud officer has told LBC that scamming need to be treated as the 'really cruel crime' it is.

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Speaking to LBC’s Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Nik Adams, the temporary Assistant Commissioner at the City of London Police has said that there needs to be tougher sentences for scammers.

He told LBC: “I think the average sentence now for fraud conviction is about 20 months.

“For some of these organised criminals that are at the top of the tree targeting members of the public, the sentences now are really significant.”

Asked if the sentences were enough, Mr Adams said: “I don’t think so, I think we need to treat this as the really cruel crime as it is.

“I think it should be treated in the same way that somebody breaking into somebody’s home, being violent towards them, absolutely terrifying them, that is exactly how this type of crime should be treated.”

It comes as the Government launched its new Stop! Think Fraud campaign on Monday, which seeks to help protect individuals from scammers.

Fraud currently accounts for 40% of all crime in England and Wales, according to new data from the Home Office.

There were 3.3 million fraud offences recorded in the year ending June 2023, a decrease of 13% on the year previous, according to the Office for National Statistics’ Crime Survey for England and Wales.

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A new anti-fraud campaign was launched on Monday.
A new anti-fraud campaign was launched on Monday. Picture: Alamy

However, romance fraud has seen a rise in cases, as victims were conned out of more than £88m as a result of romance fraud last year, according to separate data published last week.

Mr Adams said he thought romance fraud in the case of bereaved individuals is “one of the most pernicious and cruel types of all the frauds that we see”.

In a statement about the new campaign, Home Secretary James Cleverly said: “Our bold fraud strategy is continuing to deliver for the British people.

“This new campaign is a powerful tool to add to our arsenal, which already includes a world-first agreement from tech firms to prevent online fraud and the rollout of a national fraud squad that has 400 expert investigators.

“I encourage everyone to stop, take a moment to think about fraud, and share this messaging far and wide.”

However, Labour has criticised the Government for its campaign being too late, with the party blaming the Tories for a rise in scams over the last decade.

Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry said: “Under this Tory Government there has been an almost eightfold increase in the amount of fraud, from around 400,000 offences per year to 3.2 million, and the losses to the UK as a whole have grown from £38.4 billion per year to £219 billion.

“After 14 years spent sleepwalking through the escalation of the crisis, launching an ad campaign in response is the definition of too little, too late.

While Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy at consumer group Which?, has said there should be less onus on the consumer to protect themselves from scammers.

“Government should urgently plug the gaps in fraud prevention, particularly in the telecoms, online advertising and domain sectors, making it harder for scammers to reach potential victims in the first place," she said.

“Tackling fraud must be made a national priority and a fraud minister should be appointed who can bring industries together to disrupt and block online criminals.”

Information on how to spot fraud, stay safe and what to do if targeted is available on the Government website gov.uk/stopthinkfraud.

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