A UK thinktank has called for fraud to be considered a ‘national security priority’ backed by a new public-private strategy.
The Royal United Services Institute in a report out today warned that fraud is a growing threat to UK businesses and the public and threatens to destabilise public funding of essential services.
It said that despite there being 3.7million reported incidents of fraud in 2019/20, there is no national strategy and fraud “only represents 1% of policing response”.
The report, entitled The Silent Threat: The Impact of Fraud on National Security, makes 13 recommendations to tackle the problem (see box below). These include a new public-private strategy, a networked police response and a greater role for the intelligence services.
It said the National Cyber Security Strategy should be given a more explicit mandate for GCHQ to protect the public from cyber fraud and should set out a resourcing plan for the National Cyber Security Centre Suspicious Email Service. It calls on the the National Police Chief’s Council to review how to build synergies between the specialist fraud and cyber capabilities within policing.
RUSI is also recommending the government revisit the role a digital ID scheme could play in countering fraud and suggests staff in agencies distributing benefits and support be given basic training in how to identify terrorist-financing vulnerabilities. It suggests the UK’s Joint Money Laundering Intelligence Taskforce Terrorist Financing Working Group and the Joint Fraud Taskforce should establish a new joint group.
“The UK’s growing fraud problem has wide-reaching impacts beyond the purely financial losses which are frequently the focus of the debate. Perhaps unique to this crime type, fraud has the potential to disrupt society in multiple ways, by psychologically impacting individuals, undermining the viability of businesses, putting pressure on public services, fuelling organised crime and funding terrorism” the paper said.
The report’s authors. RUSI experts Helena Wood, Tom Keatinge, Keith Ditcham and Ardi Janjeva said: “From whichever angle the problem of fraud is assessed, its continued lack of prominence in the UK’s national security dialogue is hard to justify. Conversely, only the focus, leadership and resourcing which a national security response provides will be able to turn the tide on the ‘volume crime of our times’”.
AT-A-GLANCE: RUSI’S RECOMMENDATIONS TO TACKLE FRAUD IN THE UK
1. The National Security Council (NSC) should commission a new ‘whole of system’, public–private strategy for tackling fraud. This should include a new national to local networked criminal justice response, pathways for cross-government collaboration and a clearer role for the private sector, including the financial, e-commerce and telecommunications sectors in tackling fraud.
2. The 2021–2026 National Cyber Security Strategy should establish a more explicit mandate for GCHQ in protecting the public from cyber fraud and should lay out a long-term resourcing plan for the National Cyber Security Centre Suspicious Email Service.
3. The National Police Chief’s Council should commission a review to build synergies between the specialist fraud and cyber capabilities within policing, including exploring the benefits of functional mergers.
4. The ‘Government Counter Fraud Profession’ should be explicitly noted within National Security Objective 3 as part of critical government infrastructure and a means of protecting UK economic security and prosperity.
5: A new ‘whole of system’ public–private fraud strategy (see recommendation 1) should specifically lay out an action plan for improving the enforcement response to frauds against business, using a range of criminal and civil tools. Fraud as a Serious and Organised Crime
6: The NSC should issue a high-level intelligence requirement to the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Intelligence Agencies to improve our national understanding of fraud as an organised crime. The NCA needs sufficient resourcing to achieve this.
7: The Strategic Policing Requirement should be amended to emphasise fraud as a serious and organised crime priority led by the NCA, to ensure specialist resources are available for the investigation of serious and organised fraud.
8: A key goal of the National Economic Crime Centre’s ‘Public–Private Operational Board’ should be greater cross-dataset exploitation between fraud and serious and organised crime as a means of better understanding the threat from organised fraud.
9: The government should actively revisit the role that effective digital ID schemes can play in protecting against all forms of fraud, including as a tool for countering fraud for terrorist financing purposes.
10: Agencies charged with distributing benefits and government support, should receive basic training on how to identify terrorist-financing vulnerabilities and should make greater use of tech-based tools, such as IP address monitoring and geo-location tools, to ensure service users locations are consistent with their supposed status.
11: Embedded positions for HMRC and Department of Work and Pensions staff in the National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit should be maintained to help spot fraud disruption opportunities.
12: Emphasis should be placed on ensuring the necessary skills are maintained to ensure fraud investigation remains a key tool in the armoury of counterterrorism policing, with additional training on fraud investigation and prosecution provided where necessary.
13: The UK’s Joint Money Laundering Intelligence Taskforce Terrorist Financing Working Group and the Joint Fraud Taskforce should establish a new cross-taskforce working group.