Police response to fraud

Part of: Large-scale policing Protecting people online Victims and resolutions

Fraud is a unique type of crime. There is more of it than there is of other crimes, it is often complex and it has no respect for jurisdictional boundaries. Victims and offenders are often remote from one another, as are the agencies that tackle fraud. Unlike other crimes, there is a national process for reporting fraud and deciding which cases will be investigated.

A lot of changes have been made over many years to improve structures and processes, particularly at the national level. But it remains the case that, outside those organisations that have a specific national-level responsibility for fraud, it is rarely seen as a priority. This is understandable, given the many competing priorities that police and law enforcement agencies need to cope with. Nonetheless, people are more likely to be victims of fraud than any other crime.

In 2018, the Home Secretary commissioned HMICFRS to carry out an inspection of the police response to fraud. HMICFRS inspected the effectiveness and efficiency of the police response to fraud, including online fraud.

Fraud: Time to choose

This inspection which was commissioned by the Home Secretary took place between March and July 2018 and looked to assess whether:

  • law enforcement has a well-designed strategy for tackling fraud;
  • organisational structures provide the necessary capacity, capabilities and partnerships; and
  • victims of fraud receive a high-quality response.

Terms of Reference

The terms of reference were to assess whether:

  • law enforcement has a well-designed strategy for tackling fraud, which is based on a comprehensive understanding of the fraud threat and its impact, takes account of evidence of what works, and is consistent with government policy;
  • organisational structures provide the necessary capacity, capabilities and partnerships at force, regional, national and international levels to tackle fraud, for example by reducing opportunities for fraud to occur, by safeguarding and protecting individuals and businesses from fraud risks, and by investigating offences and managing fraud offenders; and
  • the police service across England and Wales consistently provides a high-quality response to fraud, including by making it easy to report fraud and preparatory activity, by routinely assessing vulnerability and harm, and by assessing victim satisfaction.

The scope included fraud against individuals and businesses, but not fraud against public authorities (where the responsibility for dealing with such fraud generally lies with the organisation concerned rather than the police).


Our Inspection took place between March and July 2018, visiting eleven police forces in England and Wales, all nine regional organised crime units as well as the national bodies of the National Crime Agency, Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and from an international perspective, Europol.

In each agency, we interviewed strategic and tactical leads responsible for the response to fraud. In addition, focus groups were held with operational staff involved with the reporting, analysis and investigation of fraud offences as well as the provision of protect advice to the public. We also interviewed staff involved with implementing the new National Economic Crime Centre.