We’ve almost all received a “hi mum” message trying to defraud us, but for the victims who fall for the scammers, we must have a safety net, writes Chris Hayward.
Sixty years ago today, a travelling post office train carrying millions of pounds in bank notes left Glasgow Central for London Euston. It was supposed to be a routine journey, except the train never arrived.
Nearing the end of its eight-hour trip, at just after 3am the following day, the train ground to a halt and 15 men executed their intricate plan to rob its valuable cargo.
In the decades that followed, the “Great Train Robbery” transcended from shock and scandal to myth and legend. The story of the £2.6m theft – equivalent to tens of millions today – influenced everything from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Starlight Express, to Agatha Christie’s novel, At Bertram’s Hotel.
Sixty years on, much has changed: we no longer move money by trains but online. But much has remained: criminals are intent on defrauding people and businesses to steal their money.
Today, fraud is the most prevalent type of crime in England and Wales. It accounts for 40 per cent of all offences.
Though fraud can be complex, it often presents in the simplest of ways: think of the “Hi Mum” messages, or the phishing emails we receive repeatedly at work and at home.
As daily life becomes ever more centred on the digital world, so too does the criminal’s methods – with 85 per cent of fraud now cyber-enabled.
This newspaper has consistently covered how the mechanism for scammers is ever changing. One of the most recent and sinister examples was the so-called “pig butchering” scam which manages to convince young, tech-savvy Britons to part with their money.
These all too familiar interactions are devastating for victims, so we must become even more vigilant to the threats we face.
The City of London Police is the national policing lead for fraud and cyber crime, which are major contributors to economic crime. It coordinates the country’s efforts to fight back against scammers and provides vital support to local police force investigations across the country.
Much of this work revolves around Action Fraud, the first nationally centralised system for fraud and cybercrime reporting anywhere in the world. However, after understandable criticism, the long-awaited replacement for Action Fraud is currently being developed to provide a much-needed boost to the efforts to tackle economic crime and stop people becoming victims of fraud. A whole system response is needed to tackle this insidious crime, bringing together law enforcement, financial services, technology companies and the third sector.
Fraud is a threat to our nation’s competitiveness, and we will do everything we can to stamp it out.
It matters not only to prevent fraud in the first place, but to protect the entire City business ecosystem which relies on us being a trusted place to do business.
Just as policing has always relied on a physical presence on the streets, it is increasingly the case that we need a strong digital presence too.
The City of London Police helps protect both worlds. Digital policing for the digital age. Policing supports our economic security and economic prosperity, they are two sides of the same coin, and both aid the City’s competitiveness.
Sixty years after that infamous post office train failed to end its journey in London, it is the Square Mile that is playing the leading role in the fightback against fraudsters.