Most right-minded people wouldn’t dream of committing fraud. Or would they?
Some new research has found that acts of fraud among UK adults are more widespread than we might have thought, possibly due to a misunderstanding of
what constitutes a criminal act.
The research came from fraud prevention service Cifas and found that one in seven British adults have committed at least one type of consumer fraud.
They also found that two in three of us know someone who is guilty of committing a form of consumer fraud.
Cifas described four different types of consumer fraud as part of this study. It’s useful to understand each of these, to reduce the risk of inadvertently committing a crime in the future.
Probably the most well-known type of consumer fraud is ‘fronting’.
This involves setting up a service in someone else’s name, with the goal of saving money.
Fronting is commonly used to establish car insurance, in the name of the parent, when it’s the child driving the car. Under this scenario, the parent adds themselves as a ‘named driver’ on the car insurance policy in order to lower the insurance premium.
Another common form of consumer fraud is ‘deshopping’.
Deshopping involves buying items, often clothing, with the plan to wear the item once before returning them to the retail to claim a full refund.
Money muling involves the illegal transfer of monies to a third-party from your own bank account. It’s assisting with money laundering, with the ‘clean’ bank
account used to legitimise the source of funds.
Last but not least, claimed non-delivery is where someone orders good online and then falsely claims they were never delivered, in order to claim a refund and keep the goods.
The research found that fronting is the most common form of consumer fraud, with 6% admitting to this practice.
Fronting was followed closely by deshopping, an actively admitted by 5% of UK adults.
Despite their illegality, many Brits consider some types of consumer fraud as reasonable. In fact, 39% believe fronting is a reasonable thing to do.
The consequences of fronting include driving without valid insurance, and even a criminal record, in some cases.
A worrying 22% of Brits said money muling was a reasonable form of consumer fraud.
The consequences of money muling, if caught, including being unable to open a bank account or obtain a mortgage, as well as a potential prison sentence.
The research found that younger people were more likely to commit consumer fraud, with around four times as many 18-34-year-olds admitting to the practice compared to over 65s.
The report also found that companies are focusing on detection and prosecution of consumer fraud, instead of prevention.
This is despite the fact that prevention is generally considered to be more effective than detection.
Cifas argues that it would be better to direct energy towards raising consumer awareness of fraud and their consequences, which include criminal records, fines, or trouble getting banking or credit facilities.
Mike Haley, CEO of Cifas, said:
“It’s sad to note how common fraud is among the British population, and that even more people find such acts of dishonesty acceptable.
“Many people seem unaware that what they consider to be reasonable, such as buying shoes to wear for a night before returning them, or adding their parent as a main driver for cheaper insurance, can be considered acts of fraud.
“We wanted to raise awareness of the consequences what can be considered everyday fraud, such as finding it difficult to obtain a financial product or a mobile
phone account, and in some cases such as being a money mule, end up with a criminal record.”
Matthew Oakley, Director of WPI Economics, said:
“It is shocking that one in seven British adults admit to having committed first-party fraud.
“That many people also see this as reasonable highlights the lack of understanding of fraud as a criminal and harmful act.
“This report shines a light on some of the routes to people committing fraud and highlights how industry can work together to tackle these; in particular by making sure that fewer people see fraud as reasonable and that the opportunities to commit fraud are reduced.”