Ex-fraud police chief warns of cyber-crime growth in Britain

A former top fraud detective with the City of London police warns that cyber-crime is more of a threat to the country than the illegal drug trade. Steve Head, who resigned this month as the UK's national coordinator for economic crime, challenged the concept that crime in Britain was dropping. He also warned of an increase in the number of foreign criminals targeting people and companies in the UK.

Fraud detectives believe that about three million offences of cyber and fraud go unreported each year. Head mentioned that police alone can't tackle the scale of threat. Fewer than one in 100 reported frauds are examined by police.

“Because there is this hidden element to cyber-crime we are not having a sensible debate about it because we do not understand what a huge threat it is. I don't believe crime is falling, but criminals have moved to embrace the internet,” Head stated.

Officers close down 4,000 phone lines and websites connected to fraud each month while preventing about £369 million pounds a year leaving Britain in “mule” bank accounts.

Head said police were seeing a rise in cyber-fraud attacks from criminals in Eastern Europe and the Far East, a real challenge for Britain. “This is a crime that reaches out to you—you don't have to go anywhere or do anything, it comes to you, it comes to your home through the internet. The internet has taken fraud to a new dimension.”

Head said the Government and police should give more priority to fighting and preventing cyber-offences. Senior City of London officers are now working with banks and the Home Office to organise a national fraud taskforce to tackle cyber-crime.