بخشی از مقاله (انگلیسی)
There is a debate at the highest levels of government and civil society over whether the rise in fraud is a blip exacerbated by the pandemic or a more fundamental transformation (or flip) in the structure of crime. This paper examines this debate by exploring the social factors influencing the level of fraud. It does so by conceptualising these factors as a fraud field, offering a novel way to visualise and consider vulnerability through the broad categories of ‘threats’ and ‘safeguards’ which influence levels of fraud. In doing so it offers the first attempt to map the wide range of ‘forces’ that influence levels of fraud and produces a mathematical expression of this, which will provide a basis for further debate, refinement and research. The threats include the myriad of opportunities, the large population of fraudsters, and the range of human and technology enablers that support the fraudsters. The principal safeguards that resist the fraud threat are culture, the law and the defensive resilience of individuals and organisations. Using the fraud field and official crime statistics, the paper argues that the safeguards are so structurally weak that the fraud epidemic is not a blip, but an opportunistic flip from traditional acquisitive crimes. The forces influencing levels of fraud mean high volumes of fraud will continue at the current levels or even accelerate further, unless there is a collective national strategy to strengthen the safeguards.
A recent report by the prestigious international relations think tank, the Royal United Services Institute, described fraud as an epidemic that threatens national security (Wood et al., 2021). In stark contrast, a senior official responsible for the counter-fraud policy in a large government agency expressed to one of this paper’s authors their frustration in failing to secure greater interest and resources from colleagues and politicians because of the prevailing perception that the recent rise in fraud in the UK is a ‘blip’, exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. In another illustration of the sanguine view regarding fraud, one of the authors of this paper was contacted by an undergraduate student from another university, who asked what they thought of their lecturer’s view that fraud was just another moral panic. These views attenuating the fraud problem might not be representative, but the fact of such views in ‘informed’ opinion in the face of the overwhelming evidence of the substantial fraud problem illustrated by the Crime Survey of England and Wales, illustrates the need for further exploration and exposure of the problem. Differential rationalisation theory suggests this sanguine view is dangerous because it justifies inaction (Shepherd and Button, 2018). The political perception is partly informed by a marked fall in traditional crimes since the early 1990 s in the UK and other Western nations (Tonry, 2014). It is also subject to the manipulative politicalisation of statistics. For example, former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson announced to the House of Commons in January 2022 that “we have been cutting crime by 14 %” (HC Deb, 2022). He was subsequently admonished by the head of the UK Statistics Authority for failing to explain that the fall excluded fraud and computer misuse (Norgrove, 2022). Had Johnson included fraud and computer misuse, he would have had to announce a 14 % increase in total crime. These political machinations do, nevertheless, point to a very important question. Can the fraud epidemic be ignored as just another cyclical change in crime that will eventually decline or is it a permanent feature of 21st century British society?
Galvanised by the dismissive attitudes of some senior leaders in the UK, this paper challenges the notion that the fraud epidemic in the UK could be described as blip. The examination of the official crime statistics shows that acquisitive crime has switched from theft to fraud because fraud has become a more accessible offence and, from the offender’s perspective, it is lower risk. Using the novel fraud field concept to visualise fraud threats and safeguards, the paper has noted the significant forces influencing fraud levels and developed a novel mathematical expression of this. From this assessment the paper argues that the threat forces in favour of fraud currently overwhelm the safeguard forces. The array of threat forces has been hugely amplified by the disruptive impact of new technologies. In particular, because the essence of fraud is a false communication, the digital communication and transaction technologies are powerful enablers that provide a whole generation of fraudsters across the world with access to victims anywhere in the world. Indifference is the essential cause of the weakness of the safeguard forces: an indifferent public, marginal interests within law enforcement, irresponsible organisations, and dismissive politicians. Consequently, it is naïve and reckless to regard the current level of fraud in the UK as a blip, and it will continue at the current levels or accelerate without strategic intervention. The fraud field analysis suggests that the threat field can be tackled by collective action: strengthening law enforcement, obliging large organisations to transition from enablers to disablers by investing in resilience that protects both themselves and the public, and by greater international efforts to tackle the international dimension of fraud.