The Liberal Democrats have accused the Home Secretary Priti Patel of being “asleep at the wheel” in the fight against fraud, after the party revealed that over 22,000 investigations into fraud cases were dropped by police last year.
Analysis of Home Office figures shows that between April 2020 and March 2021, 22,420 fraud cases were closed without a suspect being identified, an increase of 20% on the previous 12 months. Only 9% (4,853) of all the 51,870 cases closed in 2020/21 resulted in a suspect being charged.
The Liberal Democrats are demanding an urgent government strategy to tackle the fraud epidemic, support victims and catch the criminals responsible.
Online fraud has soared during the Covid pandemic, with internet banking fraud more than doubling between 2019 and 2020. Those falling victim to scams are also often not receiving their money back, with just £147 million (47%) of the £312 million of losses to bank transfer fraud being reimbursed last year. [Scale of losses is shown in a pdf here]
At its Autumn conference today (Monday 20 September), the Liberal Democrats will call on the government to step up efforts to tackle fraud and support the estimated 3.5 million people who fall victim to this crime each year. Measures being proposed include naming and shaming banks with the worst records on fraud, making it mandatory for banks to refund blameless victims and requiring social media companies to do more to clamp down on scams on their platforms.
The party is also calling for a real-time warning system for scams to be established allowing people to report suspicious activity, along with an Online Crime Agency to effectively tackle illegal content and activity online.
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:
“The country faces a growing fraud epidemic, yet Priti Patel is asleep at the wheel.
“Far too many criminals are getting away with this appalling crime, and far too many victims are being left without justice.
“It is a national scandal that vulnerable people are being abandoned after losing life-changing sums of money.
“The government must urgently toughen up its approach to fraud, ensure victims are refunded and give police the resources they need to catch those responsible.”