Today the Government “launches” its National Fraud Strategy. I qualify the verb because none of the quality papers seems to be running the story, and the press releases have not yet appeared on the websites of the Attorney General or the Ministry of Justice.
And well might Baroness Scotland be ashamed. The Strategy is a mishmash of things that are being done already with one new initiative – a National Fraud Reporting Centre, to be run by the City of London Police. This is presumably intended to defuse the Lords’ criticisms of the current system whereby fraud must be reported to the banks, not to the police. As our blog has frequently reported, banks dump liability for fraud on customers by making false claims about system security and imposing unreasinable terms and conditions. This is a regulatory failure: the FSA has been just as gullible in accepting the banking industry’s security models as they were about accepting its credit-risk models. (The ombudsman has also been eager to please.)
So what’s wrong with the new arrangements? Quite simply, the National Fraud Reporting Centre will nestle comfortably alongside the City force’s Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit, which investigates card fraud but is funded by the banks. Given this disgraceful arrangement, which is more worthy of Uzbekistan than of Britain, you have to ask how eager the City force will be to investigate offences that bankers don’t want investigated, such as the growing number of insider frauds and chip card cloning? And how vigorously will City cops investigate their paymasters for the fraud of claiming that their systems are secure, when they’re not, in order to avoid paying compensation to defrauded accountholders? The purpose of the old system was to keep the fraud figures artificially low while enabling the banks to control such investigations as did take place. And what precisely has changed?
The lessons of the credit crunch just don’t seem to have sunk in yet. The Government just can’t kick the habit of kowtowing to bankers.