An Issue of Trust

Action Fraud report that “Almost 21 million reports have been made to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS), resulting in the removal of over 235,000 malicious websites”[1]. Eight in ten people have experienced some sort of text message or telephone call just over the summer[2]. Shockingly 4.5 million fraud offences were recorded April 2021/March 2023 which represents a 25% increase[3].

So what is fraud? The Cambridge dictionary provides two definitions[4]:

  • The crime of getting money by deceiving people
  • Someone who deceives people by saying that they are someone or something that they are not

This is only part of the answer though because legally in the UK Fraud is defined in the Fraud Act 2006. As you might expect the act is quite lengthy, but we will summarise as follows:

A person is guilty of fraud if they dishonestly make a false representation and intends to make a gain for someone. A representation is false if its untrue or misleading and the person knows it might be untrue or misleading[5].

You might be wondering where this is going. Well, firstly protect yourself! Ask yourself this, if something is true (your account is about to be closed) how do you know its true? So, lets say you get a text message saying your account is about to be closed, can you verify it?  Surely if this is true the bank must know something about it, why not call them to find out? But wait, how do you know the telephone number in the text message is valid, well on the back of most bank cards they print the telephone number, so you can double check the number in the text message.  Alternatively, you can check on the paperwork you have received in the post, or on their website.

Another example you have an invoice via email for some work done, you must have phoned or spoken to the company to get them to do the work, so phone them back ask them to confirm the bank details on the invoice. No reputable company will complain about you asking about how to pay them money.

Nothing is immune to fraud.  Even Harvard Business school (the prestigious university in America) has been a victim of academic fraud [6] [7] [8].

If you find yourself a victim of fraud, I can only suggest that you report it to ActionFraud: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/ as soon as possible, they may be able to help, they may not I don’t know.  I am no expert on solving cases of fraud, my background is science where we work to establish what is true. But on the subject of establishing what is true, why do so many trust politicians? I could sit here and write a list of all the time politicians in the UK have mislead (you could argue defrauded the electorate, but for some reason that does not count), but I am already 37, I don’t think I have enough life left to complete such a list.

Most interestingly electoral fraud in the UK does not include outright lies during the campaign [9]. So if a politician says “We will cut immigration” or “We will fix the deficit” or “We will make people wealthier” or “free cheeseburgers for everyone”, what is our options if that is a lie? Well, none! There is no comeback if a politician lies during the campaign (other than the definition set out by the Electoral Commission), so why would they not lie to make themselves look better? The age-old joke is true, Question: “how do you tell if a politician is lying?”, Answer: “Their lips move”.

So, before you go vote for anyone, please double check their claims!

References


[1] Neighbourhoodalert.co.uk email dated 20 June 2023 https://www.ourwatchmember.org.uk/Alerts/A/91044

[2] Ofcom: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/advice-for-consumers/scams/7726-reporting-scam-texts-and-calls

[3] ONS: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/natureoffraudandcomputermisuseinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2022

[4] Cambridge Dictionary: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/fraud

[5] Fraud Act 2006: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/35/section/2

[6] Data Colada: https://datacolada.org/109

[7] Data Colada: https://datacolada.org/110

[8] Data Colada: https://datacolada.org/111

[9] Electoral Commission: https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/voter/report-electoral-fraud

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