Staff at an Action Fraud call centre referred to victims as ‘morons’, ‘screwballs’ and ‘psychos’.
Fraud helpline staff working for the City of London Police are misleading victims into believing their cases will be solved, according to an investigation by The Times.
An undercover probe into Action Fraud, the main reporting body for scams in the UK, found that staff are being told not to inform victims that the majority of cases are dismissed by employees or a computer algorithm.
Victims of fraud are told to report the crime to Action Fraud, which is overseen by City of London Police. Four years ago, the service was outsourced to a firm called Concentrix.
A Times reporter found that many of the staff were school leavers earning just above the minimum wage at £8.50.
Managers mocked victims, referring to them as “morons”, “screwballs” and “psychos”, while staff were told to mislead customers into believing that they were talking to police officers.
If a victim’s bank details have been stolen, the case is filed as a crime report only if the bank refuses to reimburse them. If the bank has paid them back or has yet to make a decision, the case is unlikely to be pursued.
Michael Rodgers, the City of London Police training manager, told staff: “When it comes to the police, you’ll find they do absolutely everything in their power to avoid doing work. They’re the most useless bunch of people.
“When it comes to fraud, they will literally hand people over a leaflet and say contact Action Fraud, knowing that all that we can do for people is take a report and we can’t do anything else.”
Even when calls filed as a crime report, they are put into a computer scoring system with only those likely to lead to a suspect being caught going through to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).
Last year, there were an estimated 3.6 million incidents of fraud, more than a third of all crimes in England and Wales. However, on average, as few as one in 50 fraud reports lead to a suspect being caught.
Home secretary Priti Patel says that she is “very concerned” and has written to City of London Police asking for an urgent update.
City of London Police and Concentrix have opened investigations and four staff members have been suspended.
Concentrix says that it is taking the allegations seriously and does not tolerate the mocking of fraud victims.
A Concentrix spokesperson says: “A small number of isolated incidents have occurred which are not representative of our organisation and our values. The four individuals featured in the investigation have been suspended.”
Commander Karen Baxter, national lead for economic crime at City of London Police, says: “We will be carrying out an immediate examination of standards and requiring our agents to do the same.
“It is important to emphasize that we know that the vast majority of the staff who work for Action Fraud do a good job in sometimes difficult circumstances, and we would not want this to deter members of the public from coming forward and reporting fraud.”
This article was first written and published by our sister magazine Moneywise.