Stuart McDonald

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Companies and individuals hit by frauds are losing faith that the police will help and are instead turning to private investigation experts.

A briefing for finance industry insiders heard how just 3% of fraud cases result in charges or prosecution.

Stuart McDonald of corporate investigations company Matrix Intelligence also cited figures showing a 20% increase in online shopping and auction fraud last year, and a 61% increase in remote banking fraud.

“Depressingly, fraud is now the most likely crime that members of the British public will become a victim of, with more than one in three of us being affected, but just over 1% of police resources are dedicated to dealing with it,” he said.

“That is probably the most depressing statistic of them all.

“Very often when we have someone come to us we direct them to the police and they simply come back and say they realise that they’re going to get no satisfaction via that mechanism and ask could they pay to potentially investigate privately.

“It’s not ideal but it is something that we do if the client has the resources and we deem there’s a likelihood of successful recovery.

“If there isn’t, then it’s about management of expectations and saying to the client we believe they should cut their loses.”

Speaking at the briefing organised by legal services firm Integrated Dispute Resolution, he detailed how coronavirus fraud was an “epidemic within the pandemic”, particularly with impersonation crimes.

“HMRC identified over 421 different coronavirus-related scams purporting to be from them last year,” said Mr McDonald, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Parachute Regiment.

“As people were driven online and conducting more home shopping then we saw Royal Mail get targeted.

“We’ve had the coronavirus government tracking app targeted to try to harvest people’s details, we’ve had vaccine scams, we've had people alleging to be from broadband providers and indeed, a bank’s own fraud investigation team.”

Many of those falling victim are people who rarely used online shopping or banking before the pandemic. But Mr McDonald added: “It’s not just individuals, we have examples of large companies who paid vast sums for protective equipment which never materialised.”

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