Sheffield councillor questions what more can be done to tackle ‘tsunami of fraud’ in the UK

A Sheffield councillor raised concern about the amount of fraud happening in the country and asked South Yorkshire Police how it was being tackled locally.

Friday, 18th March 2022, 3:08 pm

Councillor Joe Otten raised the issue during a Sheffield Council scrutiny meeting this week following his own bad experiences.

He said: “There is a tsunami of fraud going on in this country.

“When I had a landline most of the calls I got on it were attempted fraud. Of the unsolicited contact I get on social media most of them are attempts at fraud, if not nearly all of them.

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Superintendent Simon Verrall, of South Yorkshire Police, talking about fraud during a Sheffield Council scrutiny meeting.

“I appreciate the police forces are not cut out to deal with that. The skills, resources and powers you need to detect and prosecute the fraudsters, the organised crime gangs that are doing these frauds, are not what officers are trained to do.

“It doesn’t seem to me there is a serious attempt to get a grip of the fraud problem. Is there anything can be done?”

Superintendent Simon Verrall, of South Yorkshire Police said fraud was not reported in local crime figures because it was no longer a ‘local crime’ as many fraudsters were targeting locals from overseas.

He added: “What can we do about it? All crime is better dealt with through preventative measures so detecting is only part of the problem. We do need to look at companies like Facebook and other social media, for example if people are advertising scam schemes on those, and phone networks.

Councillor Joe Otten raising concern about fraud during a Sheffield Council meeting with South Yorkshire Police.

“Over my 30 year career crime has ebbed and flowed and what used to be what taxed me as a police officer when I first started was mostly vehicle crime and burglary and now it is online crime, child exploitation and other things that are enabled by the internet. Criminals will find a way of exploiting whatever is coming next.

“That’s the issue with fraud but the best solutions is prevention. For example, mobile phone theft, which was a massive problem if you got back a decade. The technology has now made it almost pointless to steal someone’s mobile phone. So it will be the preventative measures that will be the solution to this, not the detection measures. But I don’t have the solution today.”

Councillor Otten replied: “If it was working some of the people trying to contact me would have given up by now so it clearly isn’t working, clearly more needs to be done. If there are blockages in the banks or in the mobile companies and social media companies that they are not cooperating enough with then I think we should know about it and we could put some pressure on.

“I will keep hoping we find ways…Is there no way to pro-actively disrupt crime in terms of fraud?”

Superintendent Verrall said: “If I put it simply, I will struggle to pro-actively disrupt a crime gang operating from Nigeria, it’s quite difficult.”

Reporting fraud

On its website, South Yorkshire Police said if you have been a victim of fraud, report it to the national centre Action Fraud at: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/