3 insights from our Counter Fraud webinar

Mar 31, 2023
Economic crime experts from some of the most potent counter fraud agencies in the UK and overseas convened in our latest webinar Combatting Fraud with Data and Intelligence.

Chair Ian Dyson, Distinguished Fellow at RUSI and former City of London Police Commissioner, set a stark scene in our latest webinar, outlining fraud’s exponential growth and emerging status as a threat to National Security, with links to nation-state funding beginning to surface.  

Costing the UK some £350 billion per year (Serious Fraud Office), counter fraud operations face “massive challenges” in protecting society from the economic damage inflicted by complex trade frauds and the devastating human impact posed by high-volume attacks, such as romance fraud.  

While the webinar is now available to rewatch below, in this article, we highlight some key insights from the webinar.

Our panel of economic crime experts included:  

  • Mick Gallagher, Chief Investigator, Serious Fraud Office (SFO) 
  • Adrian Searle, Director, National Economic Crime Centre (NECC), National Crime Agency (NCA) 
  • Nichola Meghji, Detective Inspector, Economic Crime Unit, City of London Police 
  • Brian Lewis, Special Agent for Homeland Security Investigations, US Embassy London 
  • Matt Horne, Head of Policing & Government, Clue Software 

Joining the dots

Our Counter Fraud report revealed that 80% of fraud teams are overwhelmed by data. A year on from that survey, and little has changed.  

Faced with “incredible” amounts of reports from Action Fraud and other public and private sector suspicious data sources – panellists were eager to point out that “joining the dots” between vast volumes of data is key to detecting earlier and tackling complex fraud operations at source.  

“I think we’re missing a trick with linking that intelligence,” said Nichola 

Evidencing the potential, Adrian said NECC data analysts had recently surfaced an “in-flight” multimillion pound property investment fraud by drawing intelligence sources together, which allowed the organisation to coordinate with partners to disrupt it.  

“That’s our direction of travel,” Adrian said; “bringing our data together better across the system, identifying the key targets to high harm fraudsters, and going after them proactively – rather than waiting for the victims to report to us.” 

Entity-centric technology is “critical” in supporting this, Matt commented, alluding to Clue’s core ability to combine multiple data sources into one system via secure API and detect links between Golden Nominal intel.  

Community & collaboration

There is a “huge obligation” on the tech industry to support the free flow of information, intelligence and data between interoperable systems in the fight against fraud, said Matt. But “joining with others in common cause is one of the most powerful ways of responding to economic crime threats,” he added.  

According to NECC, 75% of frauds have an overseas component, while 80% are tech-enabled. Up against a threat of such scope and scale, brokering cross-sector cooperation at international level is crucial. 

“Certainly, the primary way we’re going to deal with the threat at scale is by working with partners in industry to stop it and block it,” said Adrian, “… whether it’s operationally or whether it’s in policy terms, we need to work with international partners to bear down on the threat.”  

Reflecting on the successful dismantling of a ‘green fraud’ operation in the Amazon rainforest with the help of local authorities, Mick said there was significant progress being made in “strong international cooperation between police forces and agencies.”  

Prioritising proactive response

Comparing the fight against fraud as “David versus Goliath”, panellists were unanimous in the need to tackle the fraud problem at its head.  

While the fraud threat is pulling rank with cyber in the boardroom, hurdles remain in acquiring skills and resource. As such, strategic but bold investments in intelligence capabilities can help teams identify and proactively tackle the networks and ‘kingpins’ upstream. Moving away from the reactionary investigative activity, a proactive, intelligence-led approach directs finite resources where it has the most impact.

Accelerating the pace of adoption of intelligence management technology requires effective legal frameworks and, simply, to “demonstrate that it works,” said Brian. He added that embracing a US-style culture of incentivised whistleblowing can act as a powerful corporate deterrent “keeping everyone honest.” 

While tackling the source of fraud is crucial, the lower-level volume fraud cannot be left to proliferate. While there is work to do to “declutter” communications, panellists said continued investments must be made into strategic, joined-up public and corporate awareness campaigns. 

Focused on detection and prevention, Clue helps law enforcement agencies, corporations and public sector organisations manage intelligence and investigations into threats including fraud, money laundering and corruption, and bribery.Learn more 

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