POLICY TITLE: Fraud Reporting and Investigations

OWNING DIRECTORATE: Major Crime & Intelligence

CONTACT DETAILS: DCI, Cyber, 101

AIM OF POLICY

To clearly state Northumbria Police’s position in respect of how the force will respond to and investigate Fraud to reduce harm to victims and communities and increase public confidence that fraud reported to the force will be recorded and investigated effectively and efficiently.

BENEFIT OF POLICY

To ensure a consistent, victim centric approach and response to fraud to reduce harm to victims and communities and increase public confidence that reported fraud will be recorded and investigated effectively and efficiently.

REASON FOR POLICY

Fraud affects our communities more often than any other crime type. Northumbria Police recognises the scale and impact of fraud and that anyone can become a victim of fraud whether that is individuals, businesses, charities or public sector organisations. Fraudsters deliberately and repeatedly target some of the most vulnerable in our society.

The financial loss from fraud can be life changing for victims. Fraudsters do not only take victims money, they take their sense of security, confidence and well-being. Victims suffer financial hardship, anxiety, depression and other mental and physical health problems.

Northumbria Police recognises this threat and is committed to protecting the public by preventing and disrupting fraud and reducing the harm to victims and communities.

CRIME RECORDING

Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime where the public should report fraud if scammed, defrauded or experience cybercrime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The service is hosted by the City of London Police working alongside the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) who is responsible for assessment of the reports and to ensure that fraud reports reach the right place. The City of London Police is the national policing lead for economic crime.

When a report is made to Action Fraud the victim receives a National Fraud Reporting Centre (NFRC) number. Reports are then passed to the NFIB.

Action Fraud does not investigate cases.

The Home Office requires the NFIB via Action Fraud to record fraud and they are the only UK crime recording authority for frauds – their NFRC number is the crime number.

In Northumbria Police, case management records are recorded and may look like a crime but are not counted as such.

Northumbria Police will only create a case management record where:

  1. A fraud report is dealt with as a Call for Service (CFS)
  2. Where an investigation is commenced as a result of a dissemination from the NFIB.

In all cases where Northumbria Police receive a report direct from the public and create a case management record, the force is required to record the offence with Action Fraud where the crime number (NFRC) is provided.      

INITIAL RESPONSE TO FRAUD REFERRALS

There are three key ways in which Northumbria Police will receive reports of Fraud:

  • Via Action Fraud
  • Live Calls for Service
  • Via NFIB Disseminations

Safeguarding and crime prevention advice will be provided to the victim at the first point of contact irrespective of the method referred to the force in order to prevent those becoming repeat victims.

The Northumbria Police website contains good resources to signpost victims to for self-care via: https://www.getsafeonline.org/northumbria/

Action Fraud

Where a report is received by Action Fraud and an assessment deems the victim as vulnerable, Action Fraud will notify Northumbria Police requesting an officer attend to see the victim. In cases where attendance is assessed as immediate by Action Fraud, they will call 999.

Live CFS

All reports of fraud made directly to Northumbria Police are subject to assessment of caller vulnerability using the ‘THRIVE’ principles to assess Threat, Harm, Risk, Investigation and Engagement.

Calls/ reports are assessed to see if they fit the criteria of a CFS.

What constitutes a CFS:

  • When an offender has been arrested for a fraud offence in the Northumbria Police Area;
  • The offender ‘is committing’ or has recently committed a fraud offence at the time of the CFS;
  • The suspect is known and is a local suspect.

A ‘local suspect’ is defined as where, through viable investigative leads:

  • Police can or could locate the suspect with the details provided, or; 
  • Have sufficient details to apprehend an offender.

When a CFS is apparent, an incident is created and subject to a THRIVE assessment following which a deployment for response will be allocated and investigation commenced. The crime will be assessed by the Force’s Communications Centre and allocated to the most appropriate investigator across the Force based on the Investigation Assessment Framework (IAF) factors of vulnerability, complexity, solvability and severity.

Northumbria Police will record the offence at Action Fraud.

Calls/ reports not meeting CFS criteria where the victim is vulnerable

Where CFS criteria is not met the report will still be subject of THRIVE and where a victim is identified as vulnerable, an officer will be allocated to attend and safeguard as appropriate. A face to face victim needs and vulnerability assessment will be carried out and referrals made to Victims First Northumbria and / or other agencies where needs are identified and consent obtained. A Force Wide Incident Number (FWIN) will be created however a case management record is not necessary if the CFS is not met; the aim is to provide crime prevention advice to the victim and to assess their vulnerabilities and needs. Assistance should be provided to help the victim report the incident to Action Fraud.

Calls/ reports not meeting CFS criteria where the victim is NOT vulnerable

Where CFS criteria are not met and the victim is not vulnerable, the victim will be advised to report their fraud to Action Fraud direct by telephone or online. If appropriate then assistance should be given to the victim to report to Action Fraud. There is no requirement to record a case management record however a FWIN should be created to show the contact made by the victim; that the CFS criteria is not met; that safeguarding advice has been given; and the victim notified to inform Action Fraud.

Appropriate crime prevention advice should be given to the caller to assist them in safeguarding themselves in the future which is also available via the Action Fraud website.

Calls/ reports not meeting CFS criteria but involve a vehicle and /or plant

Where CFS criteria is not met but the victim reports a fraud involving a registered vehicle or plant, Northumbria Police will record the offence with Action Fraud and will update the Police National Computer (PNC).

An investigation will only commence if the CFS criteria is met.

Calls/ reports not meeting CFS criteria where there is the potential to secure evidence

Even if an offence is not a CFS and can be referred to Action Fraud, consideration will be given to the securing and preservation of evidence.

NFIB Disseminations

NFIB disseminate fraud matters to local forces under two strands:

  • PROTECT –where there are no identified lines of enquiry yet local victim support is indicated;
  • PURSUE – where NFIB database identifies a line of enquiry to follow.

PROTECT Dissemination Process

NFIB protect disseminations are received and reviewed for accuracy to ensure that no previous report has been created. The Operation Signature process will then be followed if no immediate concerns are identified.

PURSUE Dissemination Process

NFIB disseminate reports to a force to investigate if it is assessed as having viable lines of enquiry.

Receipt and allocation of NFIB Disseminations for enforcement

All disseminations received by Northumbria Police are subjected to THRIVE assessment to identify the most appropriate resource for allocation.

EVERY NFIB DISSEMINATION RECEIVED BY NORTHUMBRIA POLICE IS ASSESSED AND ALLOCATED FOR INVESTIGATION.

A local case management record is created which enables the allocation of all reports for investigation.

The crime is then allocated to either an Area Command Supervisor who will assess and allocate a suitable level of resource to deal with the investigation, or to the Complex Fraud Investigation Team where appropriate. The Complex Fraud Investigation Team will deal with the most serious or complex fraud where there is a significant risk of harm to individuals, communities or businesses.

FRAUD INVESTIGATIONS

All fraud investigations will follow the Fraud Investigation Model (FIM) and force crime investigation procedures and standards of investigation.

The FIM takes into account the unique nature of fraud crime types and focusses on the prioritisation of prevention and disruption activities to reduce the period of harm and loss to victims.

A victim needs assessment (VNA) will be carried out in all cases and referrals made to Victims First Northumbria or other agencies where needs are identified and consent obtained for a referral.

The allocated investigating officer will ensure responsibilities under Victims Code of Practice (VCoP) are adhered to.

All frauds that are reported or disseminated to Northumbria Police are investigated to a conclusion, whether that be a sanctioned outcome or no further police action due to a lack of evidence, support or not being in the public interest, or more appropriate for investigation or intervention from a partner agency. All outcomes are reported back to the NFIB.

Transferring disseminations to other forces

Where THRIVE indicates that another force should be dealing with a matter disseminated to Northumbria Police, there is a specific TRANSCRIME process back to NFIB.

Ownership of the investigation should be retained until NFIB confirm it has been transferred elsewhere.

Fraud Escalation Process

There is a defined route for police forces in England and Wales to escalate fraud investigations which would benefit from a regional or national response.

The process provides a structured process for forces to access regional and national support and will improve the transparency and accountability of case acceptance.

As with the TRANSCRIME process, the investigation will be retained until confirmation is received that it has been transferred elsewhere.

SUPPORTING VULNERABLE VICTIMS OF FRAUD

Operation Signature

Operation Signature is the force campaign to identify and support vulnerable victims of fraud.

Operation Signature was implemented to ensure a consistent approach across the force to protect vulnerable victims of fraud by:

  • Identifying vulnerability at the earliest opportunity;
  • Delivering an excellent quality of service to vulnerable victims of fraud through face to face, uniformed visits where appropriate;
  • Making referrals to suitable partner agencies for those requiring additional support;
  • Identifying and implementing preventative measures with an emphasis on maximising protection of the victims and reducing the risk of repeat victimisation.

Northumbria Police receive weekly victim lists from NFIB which contain details of all victims of fraud within the Northumbria Police force area who have reported fraud direct to Action Fraud but have not had it referred to Northumbria Police for investigation.

A vulnerability triage assessment is completed and if any of the triage criteria are apparent then the victim will be noted as potentially vulnerable. On completion of the triage process, the potentially vulnerable victim details are allocated to area command staff for a face to face visit.

The purpose of this is threefold:

  • Conduct a face to face (where possible) victim needs and vulnerability assessment
  • Make referrals to Victims First Northumbria and partners, and where the criteria is met submit an Adult Concern Notification
  • Deliver relevant ‘Protect’ crime prevention advice.
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