How can tech best be harnessed to combat the changing fraud threat?

Fraud is the most commonly experienced crime in the UK. The Crime Survey of England and Wales published last month indicated that there were 3.2 million incidents of fraud last year (over half of which is online), and another 1.2m incidents of computer misuse. This NCA Strategic Assessment of Serious & Organised Crime 2018, published in May, emphasised the importance of fraud, and highlighted that “our understanding of fraud in the UK is hampered by under-reporting; less than 20% of incidents are reported to the police.” There is a challenge facing the police and other bodies charged with investigation: how to remain relevant in this arena as the proportion of non-reported incidents continues to grow.

techUK is conscious of the challenges facing law enforcement and policy makers in a world where traditional governmental models of recording and investigating crime are struggling to match surging technologies - which enable credible threats to be delivered simultaneously to multiple targets at marginal cost. We convened a roundtable discussion last month where tech industry leaders could discuss the issue with senior figures from policing, the civil service, and the third sector.

This event challenged technology innovators and others in the market place to engage with policy makers, the police and other bodies to suggest ways in which collaboration might level the playing field and redress the balance.

The group identified a number of ways that improvements could be made. Bulk reporting tools for businesses, with clear signposting to a single point of contact for reporting is essential. There also needs to be closer working between industry and law enforcement. We must develop a model to encourage the sharing of data and tools. As a starting point, open APIs between systems would allow for much better sharing of threat data.

Improving our understanding of the harm caused by fraud would help policing make the case for more resource, and would raise the issue up the public agenda. While there have been efforts to come up with a monetary value of fraud in the UK, we need to deepen our understanding of the harm caused – the reputational damage caused to business, the bankruptcies, the shame to individuals, and in the worst cases, suicides.

Ultimately, law enforcement, Government and the tech industry must continue to work closely together and deepen those relationships to ensure that police are equipped with the skills and tools they need to tackle this threat. techUK will be using insights from last month’s event to create a short briefing note on this subject. If you would like to get involved in techUK’s work tackling fraud and cyber crime, please contact henry.rex@techuk.org.

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