E-crime victims uncertain where to turn

The lack of a central reporting point for e-crime in the UK means businesses are often uncertain how to report such incidents, according to a report by the Association of Chief Police Officers
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Victims of e-crime are not sure where they should report such crimes, a police strategy body has warned.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said in its inaugural e-crime report, published on Wednesday, that there was currently "no central reporting point for e-crime in the UK, and as a result victims of e-crime are often uncertain about how, and to whom, they should report an e-crime incident".

The Acpo report said regional specialist e-crime response pilot schemes could be set up.

"One option being actively pursued is the brigading of specialist e-crime resources from forces in each region into collaborative e-crime hubs," said the report.

"This follows the model successfully implemented in some other areas of specialist policing, bringing together a critical mass of e-crime specialists within each region to create a centre of excellence in e-crime policing."

Businesses are currently asked to report e-crime to their local police stations. However, the police have long recognised that this situation is inadequate — many local officers are non-specialist, and crime figures cannot easily be gathered.

As a result, central e-crime reporting point, called the National Fraud Reporting Centre (NFRC), is in the process of being set up. The centre, which was announced in October 2008, will be co-ordinated by the National Fraud Authority (NFA) and is due to become operational in the new year, with a pilot due this October.

The authority that used to co-ordinate the police response to e-crime was the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU), before it was subsumed by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) in April 2006.

At the time, IT security experts pointed out that, if incidents looked like low-level fraud committed by an individual, this would not fall under the remit of Soca. In addition, local non-specialist police may not have been interested in investigating crime that appeared to have been committed outside their area, said the experts.

A year after the NHTCU was disbanded, the Metropolitan Police said they were "overwhelmed" by e-crime, and proposed the creation of the Police Central e-crime Unit (PCeU). This unit was formed in 2008, having received £7m funding over three years.

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