VICTORIA BISCHOFF: When will Government act on fraud?

VICTORIA BISCHOFF: As Government outlines plan to tackle crime, how many more people need to lose their life savings before ministers act on fraud?

Combating the crime epidemic was propelled to the top of ministers’ to-do list this week. 

Forcing yobs to clean up the streets and arresting drug gangs — what’s not to like? 

But there was one glaring omission in the Government’s master plan: tackling fraud. We are facing a scamdemic of epic proportions, with millions of innocent victims targeted every year. 

Stop it: There is a desperate lack of urgency in stemming this devastating crime wave

The money stolen is used by crooks to fund serious organised crime such as terrorism, people trafficking and drug importation. 

Yet there is a desperate lack of urgency in stemming this devastating crime wave. 

As the Mail reported this week, fraud convictions have slumped to their lowest level in 14 years. 

So it was thoroughly depressing, albeit not entirely surprising, to learn that our top fraud detectives are now quitting because they feel so powerless. 

Fed up with being under-resourced, many are moving to bank jobs, with one even becoming a train driver, according to David Clarke, chairman of the Fraud Advisory Panel. 

To have any hope of turning the tide on fraud, ministers must intervene. 

An easy place to start would be to overhaul our national fraud reporting service. At present, Action Fraud is little better than a data collecting exercise, with just 14 per cent of cases passed on to the police. 

And while all scam victims are urged to alert the service if they are targeted by crooks, readers tell us time and again that they never hear back. Action Fraud is privy to a goldmine of information that could be used to help identify patterns in other fraud cases and lead to an increase in prosecutions. But it needs experts installed at its helm who are capable of putting this damning evidence to better use.

Banks should also be forced to pass on the details of every scam case they handle. 

When Money Mail asked the biggest High Street banks if they do this, some said it is up to customers to report the scam to Action Fraud or only pass on cases involving losses of £2,000 or more. Some wouldn’t even say what they do — which suggests very little. 

Only TSB said it reports all scams where a refund is paid — around 99 per cent of the cases it sees.

As criminals continue to exploit the pandemic to con victims, there must be a more concerted effort to stop these crooks.

How many more people need to lose their life savings before ministers act? 

Dodge debt trap 

Debt advice vultures have never been so prolific. 

You need only type ‘debt help’ into Google and listed above free charities is a plethora of firms claiming they can solve your money woes. 

In reality, they are more interested in profiteering from your misery by flogging you a costly debt plan. 

Social media sites, such as Instagram, are no better, with D-list celebs all-too eager to cash in by plugging irresponsible advice. As we reveal on Pages 36 and 37, piecemeal regulation has allowed debt firms to get away with preying on the vulnerable for far too long. 

An extra 1.5million households hit by the pandemic are expected to need help with debt this year. More must be done to protect them from rampant mis-selling.

Phone jammer 

Thank you for sharing all your brilliant tips to combat scam calls — crooks must bitterly regret phoning Money Mail readers. 

One of my favourite emails was from Auriole Priest, who said she likes singing to the tune of Bob Marley’s Jammin: ‘You’re scamming, don’t want to scam it with you, you’re scamming and I know you are scamming too’. Hysterical. 

Another reader, Dave Llewellyn, said he was initially polite when dealing with cold callers but noticed that whenever he engaged in conversation, he received more and more calls, until he was getting six or more a day. After responding in a more colourful manner, he only gets one a week.

For those who find nuisance calls distressing, your best defence is a call blocking service, which most major phone providers now offer. 

And if an unwanted call sneaks through, just hang up.