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The National Economic Crime Centre (NECC) has announced a new campaign targeting fraudsters responsible for duping members of the public and businesses out of billions of pounds.
The NECC is rolling out a new campaign, Project OTELLO, to step up the UK’s response to fraud, in collaboration with City of London Police, the Serious Fraud Office, the Financial Conduct Authority, Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs and the Crown Prosecution Service.
Fraud is the most common crime against UK households, with latest crime survey figures showing the estimated number of offences in 2019 compared with the previous year, increasing by 9 per cent to 3.8 million.
The first in a series of operations as part of the new campaign was co-ordinated by the City of London Police with a focus on criminals involved in courier fraud.
This fraud typically involves victims being called by someone claiming to be from the police or bank, and persuaded to hand over bank cards, PINs or cash to a ‘courier’ who attends the victim’s home address.
According to NECC, reports of this type of fraud have increased rapidly over the last three years. In 2019, there were nearly 2,000 reports, rising sharply in the last quarter of the year. This is up from just over 1,000 in 2017 and 1,251 in 2018.
“Fraud is one of the most prolific crimes affecting UK residents, and the numbers are rising. The methods used to dupe people into handing over their hard earned savings or inheritance are becoming more complex, and even the most savvy can become victims. This work aims to target those fraudsters causing the most harm,” said Graeme Biggar, the director general of the NECC.
“Members of the public need to be more aware of fraud and take steps to protect themselves. Raising awareness will be a major part of our activity. We’d encourage anyone who thinks they are affected to report it. Without the best picture of when, where and how fraud is happening we won’t be able to take the most effective action.”
The NECC’s campaign will also focus on high harm crimes such as romance fraud, investment fraud and payment diversion frauds.
Police and national agencies involved will carry out numerous operations to arrest offenders, work to increase awareness on what members of the public can do to avoid becoming a victim, and collaborate with technology companies and banks to ‘design out’ fraud.
The government has welcomed this intensification of efforts to respond to these crimes, building on the existing success of the NCA.
"We have pledged to strengthen the National Crime Agency so it can tackle the threats we face, from fraud, county lines gangs and child sexual abuse to illicit finance, modern slavery and people trafficking," said Security Minister Brandon Lewis.