Oxford fraudsters con up to £100m a year

The Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld has stated that Oxfordshire loses over £100 million a year in fraud and cybercrime, putting residents and firms at risk. According to comments made by Mr Stansfeld, Oxford’s fraud “is on the rise”.Despite having himself been accused of scamming thousands of pounds worth of travel expenses last year, Mr Stansfeld argued that not enough has been done to tackle the issue of fraud, both in Oxfordshire and across the nation. He speculated that money sent abroad from stolen Oxfordshire businesses could vastly exceed conservative estimates, and in fact be up to £1 billion.“I don’t think it is a very satisfactory system nationally,” he said. “We should be putting a lot of money into countering fraud nationally because the loss to the Treasury must be huge every year.”The Governmental Action Fraud Centre recently lost nearly 2,500 fraud reports due to alleged computer errors, leaving those cases as of yet unsolved. Responding to complaints, Mr Stansfeld suggested the creation of a “full-time fraud investigation bureau with departments in every police force” as an alternative to the current UK-wide system.He added that he believed Oxfordshire was at particularly high risk for fraud given its affluence as a county. Last May, a hairdressing salon in North Parade, Oxford had to replace their network after a cyber attack. The owners reported they lost £15,000 worth of business during the time they closed to recover their systems.At present, fraud is thought to cost the UK as a whole over £50 billion a year. A majority of these crimes involve identity theft. Common advice for avoiding fraud includes having a complex password, not clicking on suspicious links, and avoiding giving personal information to strangers online.However, first year David Klemperer told Cherwell that basic common sense is not always enough to avoid fraud. “While logically one should avoid opening these messages, if you have a dozen or so emails to read, it’s very easy to make a mistake,” he commented. “Besides, human nature tends to be trusting of other people; that’s why fraud is so successful.”Online fraud can easily affect unsuspecting students, even with university email filters in place to protect people from suspicious content. Examining the junk folder of one student’s Nexus, for example, reveals scam e-mails offering a chance to “earn easy money” with online football betting, “a nice girl looking for a man for a serious relationship”, and a request for a reader to “Write me, handsome!”.One anonymous Oxford student who was victim of a fraudster’s e-mail told Cherwell, “After having accidentally clicked a link, my computer became infected and various adverts kept popping up whenever I used it. It was incredibly annoying and significantly delayed my work that week.”Oxford legal academic Professor Andrew Ashworth recently made headlines by arguing that fraudsters should not go to jail. Instead, he suggested, they should receive community sentences and fines. Professor Ashworth stated, “We should be reserving our most severe form of punishment for our most serious types of offending. Should someone be sent to prison and deprived of their liberty for an offence that involves no violence, no threats, and no sexual assault?”Professor Ashworth’s reasoning is that taking fraudsters out of prison would reduce problems of overcrowding. Crime Commissioner Stansfeld maintains a stern stance towards Oxford fraud. “This is not a victimless crime. It ruins people’s lives,” he said.Oxford East MP Andrew Smith similarly urged caution, saying, “With more and more shopping and banking being done online and through mobile phone apps, online security is becoming nearly as important as locking your back door.” read more