Politicians are not talking about…the fraud epidemic

There is a crime epidemic underway in the UK. Yet, few are talking about it and little, relative to the scale of the problem, is being done to deal with it. The bobbies on the beat that politicians and headline-writers like to talk about are not the answer to this problem.

The crime is fraud. It is estimated to account for just under a third of all crimes committed in England and Wales. In the 12 months prior to June 2019, the Crime Survey of England and Wales found that there were 3.8 million frauds.[1] This was up no less than 15% on the previous 12-month period.[2],[3]

Table One: annual cost of fraud[4]

The data in Table One not only encapsulates countless stories of individual misery, but help illustrate the extent to which fraud is a significant drag on the economy, deterring investment and enterprise. Ultimately, its growth and persistence degrade the social capital that underpins successful economies.

There are deep trends driving the fraud epidemic. Technology has lowered the barriers to entry for criminals, created new criminal opportunities and enabled the threat to diversify and become more sophisticated. It is estimated that around 86 per cent of frauds are, at least partially, cyber-enabled.[5] Consequently prevention, investigation and prosecution are much more complex than uniformed officers patrolling neighbourhoods.

The current policing and prosecutorial response to the fraud epidemic can only be described as inadequate. Recent academic research confirms this[6], [7] while an estimate by the Centre for Counter Fraud Studies suggests that only 0.4 per cent of frauds are detected and result in a sanction.[8] Of course, the fault does not lie solely with policing. Politicians and the Home Office have failed to sufficiently prioritise fraud. Also falling short compared to the scale of the threat, are the efforts of the private sector. Financial intermediaries for instance, have failed to adequately implement robust preventative measures.[9] 

If fraud is to be tackled and significant reductions in this crime are to be achieved, an urgent and wide-ranging conversation is needed among politicians, policy-makers, the police, prosecutorial authorities, private industry and the public about how:

  • Policy and policing can be substantially improved
  • The necessary resources marshalled and effectively targeted
  • Prevention measures can be upgraded

[1] ONS. Crime in England and Wales: year ending June 2019. (2019). Accessible at:

[2] ONS. Crime in England and Wales: year ending June 2019. (2019). Accessible at:

[3] As the ONS notes, ‘the increase was driven by rises in bank and credit account fraud (17 per cent to 27 million offences) and ‘other fraud’ (which rose 183%, to 188,000 offences)’. Source: ONS. Crime in England and Wales: year ending June 2019. (2019). Accessible at:

[4] NCA. Fraud. (2019). Accessible at:

[5] NCA. Public Private Threat Update Economic Crime Key Judgments. (2019). Accessible at:

[6] HMICFRS. Fraud: Time to choose – An inspection of the police response to fraud. (2019). Pg 7.

[7] Skidmore, M. More than just a number: improving the Police response to victims of fraud. (2019).

[8] Button, M., Lewis, C., Shepherd, D., Brooks, G and Wakefield, A. Fraud and punishment: enhancing deterrence through more effective sanctions. (2012). Pg 39.

[9] NAO. Home Office Online Fraud. (2017). Pg 8.


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