Spies to tackle fraud and text scammers; voters reminded about photo ID

Policy & Politics Technology Whitehall

The UK’s intelligence agencies will form a key part of a new crackdown on text scammers and fraud to be announced by the government.

Technology used for mass texting of phones will be restricted and a clampdown on cold calls selling financial products will help combat fraud, which is now the most common crime in the UK costing almost £7 billion a year.

Spies from the UK’s three intelligence agencies will be deployed alongside 400 – to be recruited – specialist investigators across police and the National Crime Agency to tackle the explosion in fraud.

Under the new measures to be unveiled, banks will also be allowed to delay processing payments in order to conduct checks on suspicious transactions

Home secretary Suella Braverman, writing in the Telegraph, said “criminals don’t care who they target”, adding: “Our standards of decency do not exist in the mind of a fraudster.”

According to Braverman, “fraud accounts for 41% of all crime across England and Wales” with more than 3.7 million offences reported last year, affecting one in 15 adults and costing nearly £7 billion.

“No corner of our country is unaffected,” continues Braverman. “The impact is devastating and goes far beyond just financial loss. It’s personal – and causes huge emotional strain.”

Other parts of the strategy will ban “sim farms” and GSM gateways which use large numbers of phone sim cards to send multiple scam texts simultaneously.

The intelligence services will be deployed to target the scams operating and originating from outside the UK that seek to defraud people in Britain.

The fraud crackdown, however, does not go far enough for Helena Wood, the co-head of the Royal United Services Institute thinktank’s economic crime programme.

“Although the strategy includes extra resources for policing fraud, these levels are not commensurate to the scale of the threat,” said Wood. “They are certainly not enough to turn around decades of under-investment in the enforcement response to the crime affecting more British citizens than any other.”

Voter fraud

Meanwhile voters are being reminded to take photo ID in order to cast their ballots in Thursday’s local elections.

It is the first time in history that photo ID will be needed to vote in England – and only certain types will be accepted.

It is feared millions of people could be disenfranchised by the new measure.

Labour has called it “expensive” and “unnecessary” while a number of groups are already considering legal action over its introduction. The new requirements are part of the Elections Act which was passed last year by the government which claimed it will “protect the integrity of our democracy” from voter fraud.

However it has been described by the Electoral Reform Society as an “expensive distraction”.

Police forces around the country were warned in February to prepare for potential incidents at polling stations on Thursday (May 4) if large numbers of would-be voters are denied the chance to cast their ballot because they lack the necessary ID.

Voters in Northern Ireland won’t be going to the polls until May 18 so it doesn’t clash with the coronation. Votes are not counted until the day after elections in Northern Ireland and some can continue until Saturday. Changing the date gives vote counters a chance to take part in/watch/ignore the coronation proceedings on Saturday (May 6).

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