Crimestoppers is to turn its attention to white-collar crime, hoping that the current financial climate will encourage more people to report fraudsters
The charity is well known for offering rewards in crimes such as high-profile murder cases or armed robberies. But now, for the first time in its 23-year history, Crimestoppers is asking members of the public to offer information about fraud.
Currently about five per cent of the 80,000 crimes reported to Crimestoppers each year concern fraud. But, following a campaign the charity intends to begin later this month, it is hoped that figure will treble.
Michael Laurie, the Crimestoppers chief executive, said that since building a fraud section on the charity’s website, traffic to the site had more than doubled, something he said indicated a public desire to report the crime. “We know that a lot of people think fraud is a victimless crime, but fraud against the public sector, tax fraud and benefit fraud, costs this country
£27 billion annually,” he said. “Fraud against the state costs each of us £750 a year. Given that the public finances are in a pretty bad state, we think now is a good time to appeal to people to come to us about fraud.
“We believe the public appetite is there where perhaps once it wasn’t. We want people to understand that it is unacceptable and it is all of us who are the victims.”
The new fraud campaign will be played out across local radio stations and newspapers. Any information received will be turned into “actionable intelligence packages” and shared with the main fraud investigating agencies, such as the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, run by the City of London Police, and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
As well as the current financial situation, Mr Laurie said the fact that in many instances the proceeds of fraud were used to fund organised crime would also be an incentive to report it.
“Fraud funds things such as human trafficking and drugs gangs,” he said. “Attacking fraud is a good vehicle for the police and other authorities to attack serious and organised crime gangs.” Crimestoppers was set up in 1988, three years after the murder of Pc Keith Blakelock, which was its first appeal.
It relies on information from the public and guarantees anonymity. In its history it has taken more than a million calls and has helped in more than 100,000 arrests and charges. It often offers rewards of up to £50,000 for information, but, perhaps surprisingly, fewer than one per cent of rewards are ever claimed.