Another Blow To Fraud Victims

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill responds to the news that Broadcasting Support Services (BSS), the company responsible for running Action Fraud, is in administration.

Another Blow To Fraud Victims

I am really concerned to learn that Broadcasting Support Services (BSS), the company responsible for running Action Fraud, is in administration, having hit serious financial problems.

Action Fraud was set up two years ago as a national service for reporting all types of fraud. Since then, police forces across the country have encouraged victims of these types of crime to file a report using this service, either online or by phone to the call handling centre.

Over the last two years, working on real cases from Dorset constituents, I have lobbied the Government to improve the service, especially in relation to the victim service provided. I have also met with three Ministers to discuss problems such as allowing both phishing and attempted fraud to be reported online which were not initially addressed by Action Fraud. As a result of those discussions, reports of both types of incident are now taken by Action Fraud to give a better picture of the wider impact of fraud. For months now I have been saying that more crime is “going on line” and I have actively supported a number of events to raise public awareness and enable people to stay safe on line.

Last year, City of London police took over control of Action Fraud in an attempt to improve the service. However, the call handling facility was outsourced to BSS, who are now in administration. Dorset people have continually told me that they are frustrated by Action Fraud and this latest development can only lead to Action Fraud failing more victims.

Public service providers should have contingency plans for a major failure – the current position is a disaster. Forces across the country have been encouraging the public to report crimes to Action Fraud online or by phone for two years. I am now in possession of an email which suggests that Action Fraud believe they only own part of the problem and that the public can still report fraud via 101 or at a police station.

This email from City of London police states “We are closely monitoring call volumes and will ensure an adequate service is maintained. There are alternatives to using the phone service to report fraud, including the online reporting tool available via the Action Fraud website, calling the non-emergency 101 service and also reporting in person at a police station”
This flies in the face of what the public have been told for two years. It is unprofessional, confusing and simply unacceptable to suddenly tell the public to call 101 or visit police station counters as a means of reporting fraud.

It is time for the Government to get a grip of this problem which has gone on long enough. Online crime is a massive growth area which is why the Action Fraud arrangements were put in place. The financial failure of BSS is not a reason to simply revert to local forces. Action Fraud are geared up and resourced to deal with these particular incidents and local police cannot simply absorb this additional pressure without warning and without additional resources in place.

I will be raising my concerns about the impact of the Action Fraud call centre being placed in administration with Ministers. I will also be asking how much public money is being used to “prop up” the call handling facility. The arrangements for reporting both crime and attempted crime in this area is critical to our ability to address the offending and to help prevent it. It’s time the matter was sorted once and for all.

Martyn Underhill

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