Police are not doing enough to tackle cyber fraud, says public spending watchdog
Police forces are not doing enough to tackle the growing threat of online fraud, a public spending watchdog has found.
The National Audit Office (NAO) said the issue was "not yet a priority" for all local police forces and the problem had been overlooked by government, law enforcement and industry.
Almost two million cyber-related fraud incidents were estimated to have taken place in a year and the cost is likely to run into billions of pounds, the NAO said.
NAO chief Sir Amyas Morse said: "For too long, as a low value but high volume crime, online fraud has been overlooked by government, law enforcement and industry.
"It is now the most commonly experienced crime in England and Wales and demands an urgent response."
He said the Home Office, while not solely responsible for tackling the issue, was the only organisation that could oversee the system and lead change.
The Home Office's Joint Fraud Taskforce, launched in February 2016, was a positive step "but there is still much work to be done", he said.
"At this stage it is hard to judge that the response to online fraud is proportionate, efficient or effective."
The report said that the overall cost of all forms of fraud in 2016 was Â£10 billion to individuals and Â£144 billion to the private sector as a whole.
In the year to September 30 2016 there were 1.9 million estimated incidents of cyber fraud, some 16 per cent of all crime incidents.
The report said: "Fraud is now the most commonly experienced crime in England and Wales, is growing rapidly and demands an urgent response.
"Yet fraud is not a strategic priority for local police forces and the response from industry is uneven."
The report said one idea being considered by the banking industry to tackle online fraud was to make the security codes on the back of debit and credit cards change every hour.
"This is a positive step, as the re-design may help to stop an increase in online card fraud," the NAO said. "However, such a plan requires all card providers to participate."
The Home Office said the Government was acting to tackle online fraud but acknowledged that more needed to be done.
"Tackling online fraud demands a collaborative and innovative response to keep pace with the emerging threat," a spokesman said.
"The Joint Fraud Taskforce is now working to develop a cross-industry strategic plan to specifically tackle fraud where a person's bank card is being fraudulently used online or over the phone.
"We are also working together to identify what makes a person susceptible to falling victim to fraud in order to reduce an individual's vulnerability to this."
*Are you or your business a victim of cyber crime? Pleas contact Gavin Ledwith via the email address below or ring (0191) 5017435.