UK Spies Called on to Help in Fraud Fight

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Fraud has become a serious threat to the UK’s national security, according to a think tank report calling for a major new government-led approach to tackle the issue.

The report from the highly respected Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) argued that, while fraud has received more airtime from media and lawmakers lately, there needs to be a “major systemic shift” in government strategy.

That’s because fraud is increasingly a threat to social and economic stability, and fuels both serious organized crime and terrorism, the report claimed.

Given that two of the UK’s National Security Objectives are to “protect our people” and “promote our prosperity,” the lack of consideration given to fraud as a national security threat is “increasingly perverse,” RUSI continued.

A 2020 report claimed that a fifth of British consumers had suffered financial fraud over the previous 12 months, with a similar number accepting it as the cost of participating in the digital economy. Meanwhile, RUSI cited figures from 2017 claiming that total fraud in the UK may have reached as high as £190bn or 10% of GDP at the time.

RUSI’s 13 recommendations called for a new “whole of system” public–private strategy for tackling fraud, led by the National Security Council and featuring a clearer role for private sector firms, as well as more resources and capabilities to be built-up in the police force.

It also called for a more explicit mandate for GCHQ and long-term resources to fund the National Cyber Security Center Suspicious Email Service. The National Crime Agency and intelligence services should be enlisted to better understand fraud as organized crime, police need to re-prioritize and public-private data sharing around fraud and serious organized crime must improve, it added.

RUSI also urged the government to look at the role digital ID schemes could play in countering fraud, including that used to fund terrorism.

A systemic “responsibility vacuum” in the UK government must be addressed to improve the fight against fraud, the think tank argued.

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