Detective chief inspector Tom Hill, head of the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department, explains how the force is best suited to tackle fraud in its position as a National Lead Force
There are often questions around why the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department is a National Lead Force (NLF) for fraud within a territorial police force, rather than a completely separate force with no local policing responsibilities.
The City of London Police became NLF for fraud in 2008. This status encompasses the force dealing with many aspects of economic crime, from complex investigations to hosting the UK’s reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, Action Fraud.
As the financial hub of the UK, the City naturally makes an appropriate setting for a force dedicated to fighting fraud and cybercrime.
Whilst our colleagues in local policing work hard to protect the many businesses and large commuting workforce into the area, our fraud units tackle the criminals targeting many of these businesses through fraudulent schemes. This type of partner working not only exists between our local policing and NLF units, but also between the NLF teams.
The advantages of the NLF model are often best demonstrated by case results. A recent Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) investigation, which led to over seven years in prison for a serial fraudster, saw the unit team up with colleagues from the force’s Fraud Operations and Asset Recovery teams.
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The case was referred into the Fraud Operations team, who uncovered signs of insurance fraud whilst investigating an investment fraud case. The Asset Recovery Team then secured a restraint order under the Proceeds of Crime Act legislation to prevent assets being dissipated, including a £1.6m property.
As well as cases crossing over due to criminals dabbling in a number of fraud types, we also work with our colleagues for support on larger scale operations.
Over the summer, we were joined by colleagues from across four NLF units for a number of early morning visits to suspected fraudsters. The suspects are believed to have plotted together to submit bogus claims for valuable goods, citing theft and loss.
The operation involved five warrants across four London boroughs. Once inside the properties, officers discovered a wealth of potential evidence, including stacks of designer shoe boxes, expensive handbags and electronic devices matching those used in the claims.
Investigations involving multiple suspects demand heavy resources. It is crucial that warrants are executed simultaneously to ensure that no suspects abscond after being alerted to an investigation.
Through the support of the wider force, we were able to execute the aforementioned operation seamlessly. All five suspects were arrested and subsequently interviewed by officers.
They have been released under investigation whilst our team continues to work on this case.
Sitting alongside the force’s national reporting centre for fraud, we are able to use data collated around insurance fraud to determine areas which need attention, both for operational and awareness activity.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) analyses and assesses reports made to Action Fraud, in line with the Home Office’s counting rules for fraud. This analysis allows us to identify trends, such as an increase in the amount ‘ghost broking’ lose or a specific age group being targeted by insurance fraudsters.
By combining this with the information we receive through direct referrals, we can gather a clearer picture of the current insurance fraud landscape and gauge how we need to respond.
Our unique police force also means that we have the benefit of tapping into a wide range of knowledge and expertise around often niche areas of policing. For example, we work with the NFIB’s Disruptions team, who are experts in the takedown of websites and social media accounts which enable fraud online.
This has been particularly important in running Operation Mirage, which is IFED’s dedicated online disruptions operation – an important tool in combatting ‘ghost brokers’ advertising online.
We hope to find yet even more ways in which we can work with our colleagues across the force to aid the aims and ambitions of IFED.