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Call centre staff suspended after fraud victims branded 'morons'


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PCCs call for assurances from City of London on a 'proper investigation' into report.

Suspension: Four call centre staff removed from duty

Suspension: Four call centre staff removed from duty

Date - 16th August 2019
By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle
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Crime commissioners want assurances from a police force that inspectors’ recommendations are being “urgently progressed” after four call centre staff were suspended following allegations victims of fraud were branded “morons”.

An investigation has been launched after it was claimed victims were misled into thinking they were dealing with police when they phoned to report what happened to them.

The allegations have come to light at an Action Fraud call centre which handles reports from victims across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The service is run by the City of London Police but the contact centre is contracted out to US firm Concentrix.

A reporter, who applied for and was given a job at the call centre in Scotland, said staff were told not to let callers know about a scoring system which meant some reports were not classified as crimes.

He also said staff were trained to mislead victims who may wrongly believe they were speaking with police officers, alleged that staff sometimes slept on the job and that callers had been branded "morons" and "screwballs".

A spokeswoman for Concentrix said: "We take these allegations extremely seriously and have launched an immediate investigation.

"A small number of isolated incidents have occurred which are not representative of our organisation and our values. The four individuals featured in the investigation have been suspended."

Commander Karen Baxter, City of London Police's national lead for economic crime, rejected suggestions that any reports are dismissed at call centre stage, saying that all the reports made to the call centre are passed to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.

With regard to comments allegedly made about callers, Cdr Baxter said: "Any mocking of victims is completely unacceptable."

She also said the police force "does not ask Concentrix call handlers to suggest they are police officers when taking reports from victims".

Announcing that she was leading a review into the allegations, she said: "The incidents he (the reporter) describes do not represent the standards of work and ethics we expect from anyone associated with the City of London Police.

"We will be carrying out an immediate examination of standards and requiring our agents to do the same."

Cdr Baxter added that she hoped people would not be deterred from coming forward to report fraud.

In response to the Action Fraud report, a statement from the Association of PCCs said it was “deeply concerned” by the report in the Times newspaper.

PCCs’ fraud lead Clive Grunshaw, and deputy lead Anthony Stansfeld, said: “Victim care should be at the very heart of a whole system approach to combat this vile crime, whereby criminals often target the most vulnerable in our communities. 

“The association supports the recommendations from the recent HMICFRS thematic inspection of fraud, particularly in relation to Action Fraud and wider victim care.

“We will be seeking assurances from the City of London Police that the recommendations are being urgently progressed and the allegations in this report are being properly investigated.”

Fraud accounts for around a third of all crime in England and Wales with an estimated 3.6 million incidents last year costing the UK economy an estimated £190 billion a year.

Gareth Shaw, from consumer organisation Which?, said: "These reports will be very worrying for people who have been victims of fraud. Too often, victims are left feeling abandoned and confused as investigations drag on with little sign of progress.

"Our own research estimates only one in 20 cases reported to Action Fraud are solved.

"While it is right that an investigation has been launched, these disturbing revelations reinforce the need for the Government, banks and regulators to move swiftly to introduce better protections for consumers and vital anti-fraud measures like confirmation of payee security checks."

A watchdog report in April warned fraud victims were being let down as some police forces were actively seeking out reasons to drop investigations.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services found an inconsistent approach was leaving the public at "high risk" of scams, with one officer telling the inquiry fraud was not considered a priority because it does not "bang, bleed or shout".

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Action Fraud is in crisis after the disclosure that Police Scotland has pulled out of the service and the private company running it faces being sacked.


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