Research shows need for central e-crime body

As the Government prepares to launch its new Police Central e-crime Unit (PCeU), research shows that 95 per cent of people would prefer to report online fraud directly to a dedicated e-crime agency, rather than having to go through APACS and/or the financial services firm with whom the fraud took place.

Oct 23, 2008
By Paul Jacques

As the Government prepares to launch its new Police Central e-crime Unit (PCeU), research shows that 95 per cent of people would prefer to report online fraud directly to a dedicated e-crime agency, rather than having to go through APACS and/or the financial services firm with whom the fraud took place.

The research at the recent Infosecurity Europe show – which took in online responses from 359 visitors to the site – follows on from a debate in the House of Lords on e-crime and IT security issues.

In that debate, the Lords noted it was anomalous for UK banks not being obliged – in law – to refund account holders who have been electronically defrauded.

Lord Broers, the chairman of the House of Lords Committee on Science and Technology, said that the current situation is that account holders are only being refunded under a voluntary code, noting that that in today`s environment, this is scarcely appropriate.

In addition, Lord Broers said, whilst customers currently report their e-frauds to the banks, it is not in the banks` interests to draw attention to the fact that their anti-fraud systems have failed.

Against this backdrop, the Lords concluded there is a need for specific legislation – similar to the Bills of Exchange Act 1882 – which specified that if a bank honoured a forged cheque, the bank, not the customer upon whose account the cheque had been drawn, was liable.

The Earl of Erroll, a cross-bench member of the House of Lords, said that he was not surprised that 95 per cent of people would like to be able to report online fraud directly to a dedicated body.

“I think that people instinctively realise that you cannot expect people or organisations to report their own shortcomings reliably,” he said, adding that the industry must always have independent bodies looking after our interests.

“I am delighted that money is finally being put into the new National Fraud Reporting Centre (NFRC) and is actually going to be given some teeth in the form of the new Police Central e-crime Unit,” he added.

With an estimated 80-90 per cent of crime on the Internet (excluding crime relating to children or images of child sexual abuse) believed to be fraud-related, the new e-crime unit will focus on supporting the NFRC when it comes into operation in 2009. It will also work closely with other crime-fighting agencies to tackle international and serious organised crime groups operating on the Internet.

Based in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) the PCeU will work closely with the NFRC to tackle electronic crime reported to it and support the development of the police response to e-crime across the country.

The PCeU, which is expected to be operational in spring 2009, will receive £3.5 million of government funding and £3.9 million from the MPS over three years.

It will not overlap with existing organisations such as the SOCA e-crime unit or with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), both of which have different and separate responsibilities.

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