Not Saussure

May 15, 2007

Don’t report fraud…

Filed under: Law, UK — notsaussure @ 6:28 pm

Well, this was news to me, and somewhat alarming news it is, too:

People will no longer be able to report cheque or card fraud or theft to the police under new rules being introduced by the Government.

From 1 April 2007, anyone who is a victim of this type of crime will be told to report it to their bank or building society and not police.

It will now be up to financial institutions to report such crimes to the police, which has lead to fears official figures will not truly reflect the seriousness of the problem.

Andrew Goodwill, managing director of Early Warning, an online card fraud specialist company, said the move is downgrading card fraud from a crime to an industry problem.

more here

One way to get the crime figures down, I suppose, but really…

This was brought to my attention, indirectly, from the author of the article, who writes that

I am working on a big scam [I assume she means she’s working on a report about one] at the moment and the victims are really bothered that they can’t report it to anyone – bar their bank . They feel cheated and short changed and want either a centre or police to take this back so a fraud specialist company has started a petition on No 10 website – the more people sign the better because this is a serious issue that the government brought in as per usual not bothering to care if it affects the public

Unfortunately, I can’t find the petition at the moment, but I’ll try so to do.

[Update:  now I have]

Does anyone have any further and better particulars of this extraordinary measure?

And could it be anything to do with the complaints from the Police Federation today about their members being required to arrest people, including children, on ludicrous charges, such as ‘being in possession of an egg, with intent to throw’ or a child for throwing a slice of cucumber at another child (yes, I know it’s a technical assault, but …)? The complaint from the Police Federation is that they’re being forced into this by performance targets, because all such incidents reported and dealt with by a caution or a fixed-penalty notice count as ‘crimes brought to justice’ just as do things that take a bit longer to investigate and prosecute, such as frauds?

The justification for this policy on not wanting to know about online fraud and suchlike, I’m delighted to see, is that

“Police forces at present will often not confirm a crime has taken place before they have had this confirmed by the financial institution that has issued the card… [making] financial the institution the first point of contact [is] removing an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and making it easier for customers, ” the Home Office said.

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6 Comments »

  1. You can just see it. Soon, you may not report a mugging to the police but direct to the Magistrate who originally issued the ASBO.

    Comment by jameshigham — May 15, 2007 @ 6:45 pm

  2. On the other hand, this may save a lot of pointless paperwork. Mostly, credit card fraud is a fairly minor affair. The bank gives you the money back, the police don’t investigate because there’s nothing they could do anyway. Now if the bank was refusing to pay the money back or if it was a fairly major piece of fraud you’d want the police involved.

    Comment by thesamovar — May 15, 2007 @ 8:25 pm

  3. Well, to be strictly accurate, Samovar, the bank’s customers and shareholders give you some of their money to cover your losses.

    I take your point, but if you insist on seeing it as a primarily civil matter — some of your money’s been temporarily misappropriated, which is inconvenient but so long as you get it back, no big deal — where’s to stop? There’s endless, albeit, I agree, normally short-term, inconvenience caused by credit-card fraud, but is ‘It doesn’t really matter, because you get your money back’ really the sensible attitude?

    As I understand it, you’ve normally got some pretty unpleasant people making vast amounts of money from, often repeatedly, buggering up loads of people’s finances for the month or two it takes to resolve the problem. And I don’t know about your situation, obviously, but the practical difficulties and distress it would cause me were someone to start playing silly buggers with my bank accounts and credit cards — with the result that cheques started bouncing and direct debits didn’t get paid and I couldn’t put petrol in the car because I was over my credit limit — would cause me not inconsiderable annoyance and distress, even if I were eventually able to resolve the matter in a couple of months’ time.

    And, or so I’m told by someone who sells jewellery primarily online, the ultimate loser is frequently a small business. If she takes a payment, in good faith, for one of her items on what out to be a dodgy credit card, the card-holder won’t, as you say, lose out, since he’ll have his losses refunded by the issuer. Neither will the issuer, though; he’ll just reclaim the money from her merchants’ account, leaving her to carry the loss.

    Comment by notsaussure — May 15, 2007 @ 9:08 pm

  4. Well in my case, it was the bank giving me back my money, which they had given out without proper authorisation. Specifically, at a Tesco’s pay@pump fuel station which doesn’t require to you sign or enter your PIN. It’s actually an interesting case – Tesco’s basically agrees to just automatically pay the bank back if a payment is disputed, because they’re not asking for a PIN. The bank is fine with this because they’re not risking anything. Tesco’s is fine with it because the convenience of pay@pump attracts enough additional customers to more than compensate for the fraud that their system makes trivially easy.

    This blog entry from Bruce Schneier’s blog is interesting on this.

    I’m not saying that the whole situation doesn’t matter, but I do wonder if it’s something that needs to be regularly reported to the police given that there’s nothing they can do about it. The way to combat it is for the banks and shops to implement more secure systems. Now, it would probably be sensible if the police had good statistical data on this, so that if lots of fraud were occurring after people had been to shop X say, then they might want to investigate shop X. I’m assuming though that this information would still get passed on to them if the police were informed by the banks rather than by us.

    Comment by thesamovar — May 15, 2007 @ 10:08 pm

  5. I can quite see that, in practice, whether the fraud is reported by the bank or by the card-holder probably doesn’t make a great deal of difference — other than it’s almost certainly going to reduce the number of reported frauds, which is doubtless a welcome bonus for some people in government — and that, in your case, it probably wasn’t worth your while reporting it to the police.

    Though, having read The Yorkshire Ranter on Operation Ore, if I found someone was misusing my credit cards, even for trivial amounts of money, I’d now be very anxious to get the fact the card was being used by an unknown third party without my agreement recorded with the police.

    It just seems psychologically all wrong that if you go into a police station to report the theft of something in the region of £1,000 (depending on your credit limit), the police say they’re not particularly interested. OK, you’re going to get the money back, so all you’re really suffering is a temporary inconvenience, but that’s true if your house is burgled or your car’s stolen, assuming you’re adequately insured. I’d still expect the police at least to pretend to be interested in burglaries and car thefts, though, even though I know that they’re unlikely to catch the culprit unless he’s particularly unfortunate and that investigating the crime won’t be that high on their list of priorities.

    Comment by notsaussure — May 16, 2007 @ 8:11 am

  6. Yes the Operation Ore thing is a real concern. Ideally, that problem should be addressed by the police and courts realising that the fact that your card has been used to buy dodgy things, or your computer used to download dodgy things, doesn’t necessarily mean that you yourself have been doing it. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that at the moment they don’t realise that.

    Perhaps it would be OK if the bank was required to pass on the details of your fraud to the police, and that the police would send you a notification. This wouldn’t have much bureaucratic cost because it could probably all be automated, and you can check yourself whether it’s been done (you get a notification).

    I know what you mean about it feeling psychologically wrong that the police aren’t involved, but on the other hand I’d rather they could concentrate their resources on things where they can actually make a difference. In principle, I see no reason why the same sort of thing couldn’t apply to burglaries, car thefts, muggings, etc. You’d have to base it on evidence of the extent to which these crimes are solvable of course. It’s the same with the enormous resources that are being squandered on investigating terrorism, far out of proportion to the threat.

    I don’t know what percentage of police resources is spent on this sort of exercise in pretending to be interested in unsolvable crimes. Perhaps it’s not very large? In which case, they may as well do it. It would be interesting to know.

    Comment by thesamovar — May 16, 2007 @ 12:30 pm


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