National online-fraud helpline to launch in April

The Action Fraud helpline will be run by the government's National Fraud Reporting Centre and will handle reports of all types of fraud, including cybercrime
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

A national helpline for the public to report all cases of online fraud will be up and running within months.

The Action Fraud helpline, run by the government's National Fraud Reporting Centre (NFRC), has been set up to handle reports of all types of fraud, including cybercrime.

The helpline is the first service in the UK that allows individuals and small businesses to report cybercrime to a central agency, despite the annual cost of e-crime being estimated at $1tn worldwide. In the past, reports of e-crime such as phishing attacks or malware-related identity theft were handled by local police stations.

A trial version of the helpline has been running in the West Midlands and Cumbria since October last year, using a contact centre manned by six staff. More staff are now being recruited in readiness for the service being promoted nationwide by April this year.

Gareth Elliott, policy advisor with The British Chambers of Commerce, welcomed the service's impending expansion.

"Online fraud is a crime that affects the whole country and not just local areas and if it can be tackled on a nationwide basis then that is all the better," he said. "Hopefully the service will prove successful once it is tried and tested."

In general, reports to the Action Fraud helpline are passed on to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), a centre for gathering intelligence on fraud in the UK, run by the City of London Police.

Large-scale fraud
The NFIB is using the reports to spot and stop large-scale frauds, and is passing this information to local police forces and to the public to warn of existing scams.

However, reports of online fraud will often be passed on to the Police Central e-crime Unit, the £7m unit run by the Met that handles major cybercrime investigations.

The NFRC also shares fraud reports with government agencies, such as the Office of Fair Trading, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the Financial Services Authority.

The NFRC's Action Fraud helpline can be contacted on 0300 1232040.

From next month the Action Fraud service will be expanded to include an online form for reporting fraud on the actionfraud.org.uk website.

Anyone calling the Action Fraud helpline or using the online form will be given advice on how to avoid being a victim of fraud in future.

For more on this story, see Online-fraud reporting hotline going live nationwide from April on silicon.com.

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