Fraud and cyber crime ran rampant in London over the last decade because the Metropolitan Police Service was “not very good” at detecting it, according to the head of the Met Police’s fraud team.
The Met's detection rate for fraud was almost zero in 2013, detective chief inspector Gary Miles told a conference in London on 9 June 2015.
"The Met hasn't been very good at the investigation of fraud and cyber crime in the last 10 or 15 years," Miles told security industry experts at the SDW 2015 event in Westminster.
Miles apologised for the Metropolitan Police Service's poor performance. "We've focused on other areas. So it's become more attractive for criminals to commit this type of crime," he said.
"Of 14,000 fraud crimes referred to us in 2013-14, our positive detection rate was 0.5%. So we weren't very good at it. The chances of getting caught were very small.”
The Met Police has since vowed to reverse its abysmal record, after commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe "found fraud" last year and set up "Falcon" ("Fraud And Linked Crime Online") as London's dedicated fraud unit, led by Miles.
Speaking to Computer Weekly, Miles said Falcon had vowed to catch 75% of the fraud committed in the capital in 2015 as the team gets up to full speed. Police are braced for a huge increase in fraud and cyber crime cases, after learning cyber criminals were using London as a base to commit fraud across Europe.
Reported crimes increased 70% last year, to 24,000 incidents. Falcon recorded 10,355 victims of fraud – double the number of sexual offences. And it uncovered nearly £86m of London fraud and cyber crime losses in the last three months alone.
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"Fraud is now outstripping burglary, robbery – all the traditional sorts of crime we investigate," said Miles.
The National Fraud Authority estimated such crime had almost halved in the UK from 2013 to 2015, from £93bn to £52bn. Miles said earlier estimates were inaccurate because police had not taken much interest in fraud. More accurate reporting had shown estimates were inflated, but Miles insisted the actual amount of fraud was "hugely" under-reported.
"This is a crime cycle that's gone missing," he said. "It’s not been something police have concentrated on. They have been looking at robberies, burglaries, anti-social behaviour and sexual offences."
Fraud carries low risk for criminals
Miles described one instance where a woman had been pushed to the floor and robbed of £20 at a cashpoint. The Metropolitan Police Service immediately put four officers on the case, seized CCTV footage, caught the thief by the end of the day and put him in court the following morning, (where he got a three-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty).
But a woman who complained she had been defrauded of £11,000 was dismissed by police because they believed she was not vulnerable and fraud was not a priority.
"Why are you going to go out and commit a robbery when the police are going to throw a team of 10 or 12 people at you? It’s highly likely you are going to get convicted. The conviction rate was 53% for robbery last year. And you are going to get 15, 16 years. Why not sit down and do 10, 15, 20 small £5,000 frauds?" said Miles.
Miles said he believed businesses were often keeping quiet when they fall prey to financial scams.
"I would be surprised if we were seeing even 35% to 40% of business crime reported," Miles told Computer Weekly.
He said the Met Police would never cope with growing numbers of fraudsters and cyber criminals unless industry worked with police to find ways to catch them.